Condor Symbolism & Meaning (+Totem, Spirit & Omens)

Profile head shot of Condor Bird

Condors are large birds of prey belonging to either the Andean condor species or the California condor species. A distinguishing characteristic is their exceptionally large wingspans which plays a part in their often used moniker the “New World vultures.” Despite facing serious conservation challenges, these birds remain enduring symbols in the various regions they call home. 

Though they are vultures, these birds are much more than scavengers. With massive wings that cast giant shadows over the land beneath them when they fly, condors have the ability to stir the hearts of those that encounter them. That is why, for the Native peoples of California and the Andes mountains, their respective condor species’ have incredible significance.

If the condor is your spirit animal, then this elusive bird may be a guiding force in your life. Regardless, the majesty of the condor is deeply moving and their plight as an endangered species is the responsibility of mankind to alleviate as much as possible.

On this page
Condor Symbolism and Meaning
Condor Native American Symbolism
Condor in Dreams
Condor Encounters and Omens
Condor Mythology and Folklore
    Native American Mythology:
Condor Spirit Animal
Condor Totem Animal
Condor Power Animal
Condor Tattoo Meaning

Condor Symbolism and Meaning

Condors can symbolize many different things to different people. In California, for example, they are both a symbol of the state’s natural beauty and of the challenges of conservation.

California condors are critically endangered, in part, because of pesticides that have damaged their ability to reproduce. The banned pesticide “DDT” has been linked to several negative effects on birds of prey, including excessively thin eggshells which fail to gestate properly.(1) Though DDT is illegal now, California condor populations are still struggling. Andean condors also suffer from pesticides which indiscriminately harm the wildlife in their native habitats.(2)

Recently, California condors were recorded reproducing asexually through a process called “parthenogenesis” (a form of asexual reproduction in which the development of embryos occurs without fertilization by sperm). This is an incredible discovery, and may propel the California condor forward as a new symbol of scientific discovery. Unfortunately, though, the California condor remains critically endangered despite this “Virgin Mary” reproductive adaptation.(3)

California Condors
Photo by NOAA on Unsplash

Condors, as vultures, may be associated with death or carrion. Though they are vultures, these birds are especially large and powerful. So, condors are more typically associated with traits that align with other large birds of prey, such as might, courage, and regality.

Condors are also often associated with medicine, health and longevity. Condors are exceptionally long lived birds. In captivity, condors have been known to live as long as seventy years. It is no surprise, then, that condors have been associated with the secrets of longevity and wellness.

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Condor Native American Symbolism

The Andean condor is an important figure for many of the peoples that inhabit their native range. For some Andean nations in South America (Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador) the Andean condor is a national symbol. Condors have appeared in Andean art since 2500 BCE.(4) They were often used to symbolize the sun god and were considered to be the rulers of the sky.

Andean condors were often associated with wealth, power, and physical health. Because of this, they were often over-hunted. Their bodies, feathers, and bones were very desirable for use as medicine or as a signifier of status.

In some other Native traditions, condors have been seen as symbols of righteous leadership. They are associated with justice, wisdom, and strength. They have also been perceived as benevolent messengers of the afterlife.

There is also a prophecy that describes human society dividing in two. The people of the eagle are associated with masculine energy, the north, and with the land. The people of the condor are associated with the sky, the south, and with femininity.(5)

Condor in Dreams

Dreaming of condors can be a very auspicious sign or a very grave warning. This depends on the content of the dream and the circumstances of the dreamer.

Dreaming of being attacked by a condor may represent a fear of dying or concern over one’s legacy. Condors are vultures and as such are often connected with death and the afterlife. Additionally, they are animals that are, themselves, facing the very real possibility of extinction. Negative dreams about condors may indicate that the dreamer needs to confront their own mortality and the discomfort that it brings.

Because of the Native American association of the condor with feminine power, a more positive condor dream may indicate that the dreamer is especially in touch with their own feminine energy. It may also indicate that positive changes are approaching with regards to the dreamer’s female relationships.

Condor Encounters and Omens

An encounter with a condor is extremely meaningful and not to be ignored. Due to their relative scarcity, encountering one of these majestic birds is a matter of serious luck. 

If a condor lands in your vicinity it is likely a sign that a significant transition is coming. Condors are often seen as harbingers of death. Fear not, though, because omens of death most often signify growth or change. The death of an unhealthy lifestyle or an old pattern of behavior is a huge opportunity for self improvement. This is the kind of transition that may occur after an encounter with a condor.

Soaring Condor
Photo by Loïc Mermilliod on Unsplash

In some cultures, condors are seen as messengers of the dead.(6) So instead of signifying an impending death, it is possible that an encounter with a condor may be a message from a lost loved one.

Additionally, because condors are so very uncommon, a condor choosing to visit or dwell in a location indicates the health of that location’s ecosystem. There are relatively few places where condors can be spotted, so you can trust that the places where condor encounters occur must be quite special.

Condor in Mythology & Folklore

In mythology, condors are often seen as royalty. They are exceptional among birds for their size, and their incredible ability to soar high. Condors, in fact, hardly need to beat their massive wings. Instead, they use these wings to stay aloft on air currents.(7) This is why the most potent and consistent mythological tradition involving condors usually connects them with the sky.

In many myths, condors have dominion over the sky, and are sometimes even acknowledged as royalty among birds.

Native American Mythology:


The Wiyot tribe of California saw the condor as a creator deity. In their mythological tradition, humanity was wiped out by a flood sent by a deity called “Above Old Man.” After this, the condor recreated mankind.(8)

The myths of the Mono tribe treated the condor as a fearsome villain that terrorized mankind. In one story, the condor deity beheaded human beings in order to use their blood to flood the home of its prey. (9)

Condors were incredibly significant to the Chumash people who represented condors extensively in their art. They believed that condors were once white birds, but that their feathers turned sooty black when they approached a flame. (10)

As stated above, condors also feature in the prophecy of the condor and the eagle which foretells a great divide amongst mankind. (11)

Condor Spirit Animal

As a spirit animal, the condor gives an individual an air of mystery. People with the condor spirit animal tend to be introverted and elusive.

Though they have many of the traits that earn birds of prey the designation of regality or fierceness, condors are instead often classified as carrion birds or scavengers. So, people who have the condor spirit animal may similarly struggle to have others recognize their potential. Fortunately, though, people with this spirit animal are comfortable in many worlds and are not easily dominated. They are usually quite good at standing up for themselves.

Condors only produce one offspring per year, and may even breed less often than that. This means that people with the condor as their spirit animal tend to have fewer close friends, but that they also form deep intense bonds. Someone with the condor spirit animal is much more likely to have a few deep relationships with years of history than many superficial or short-term friendships.

Condor  Totem Animal

The condor totem animal, like the condor spirit animal tends to be characterized by a quiet fierceness which is hidden by a secretive nature. 

People with the condor totem animal tend to be very in touch with the feminine aspect of their personalities. Blunt, honest, and very loyal, the condor totem animal may seem secretive, but that is only because they’re so introverted. Emotionally, people with the condor totem animal are prone to wearing their hearts’ on their sleeves.

People with the condor totem animal tend to feel very at home outdoors. They forge strong connections with their environments. Like condors who prefer to survey their world from a high place, people with the condor totem animal are most comfortable when they feel like they have sufficient perspective and control.

Condor Power Animal

The condor power animal is deeply connected with the sky. People with the condor power animal have an especially unique ability to “zoom out” and view problems from a distance, they are great at seeing things from different perspectives and tend to look at issues with a “big picture” mindset.

The greatest weakness of the condor power animal is control. People with the condor power animal struggle deeply when they feel that they do not have enough control over a situation. This can strain their relationships with others. Because the individual with the condor power animal can not control the actions or emotions of others, they may distance themself from relationships in order to feel in control of their life.

It is important that people with the condor power animal work on their comfort level with regards to spontaneity. Getting out of their comfort zones and breaking routines can be difficult, but people with the condor power animal must face this weakness in order to grow and thrive.

Condor Tattoo Meaning

Condor tattoos often evoke the fierceness and nobility of condors and other large birds of prey. They may represent virtues like strength, courage, foresight, or wisdom. 

Someone might have a condor tattoo as a symbol of their interest in conservation. The critically endangered California condor is often used as a symbol of the majesty that is lost when the natural world is degraded. 

Additionally, because California condors are the state raptor of their namesake state, a condor tattoo may indicate a particular connection to California. A California native who wants to commemorate their home state may have such a tattoo.

Conclusion

Condors are strange looking birds. Large and heavy, it’s astounding they can fly so effortlessly. The crowning glory of the condor, its wings, are enough to convince any skeptic that these massive animals are born to fly. Those powerful wings hold special significance in the cultures that have sprung up in the territories of condors. Indeed, those wings and the incredible animals to which they belong are extremely important to many people.

Andean Condor 2
Image by zoosnow from Pixabay

For the people that inhabit their native ranges, condors are often symbolic of their homes. They are guiding forces who have impacted mythological traditions as far back as 2500 BC.(12)

As symbols of conservation efforts, the impact of condors cannot be overstated. California condor populations are down to less than 600 individual birds. (13) This is a sobering reality that should trouble us all. It is entirely possible that within a generation or two, these birds could be lost forever. So, whether or not they are your spirit animal, condors should be a stark reminder of the necessity of conservation efforts.

Instead of acting as a symbol of something lost, with enough dedication, conservation efforts could allow condors to serve as symbols of something preserved; as a wrong that was righted, a species protected from looming extinction. If there is nothing else about condors that strikes you, then take them as a call to action for mankind. It is one that we cannot afford to ignore if we want to keep all of the beautiful gifts that the earth has given us.

More Spirit Animal Symbolism to Read About:
Chicken Symbolism & Meaning
Bird of Paradise Symbolism & Meaning
Blue-footed Booby Symbolism & Meaning
Flamingo Symbolism & Meaning
Chickadee Symbolism & Meaning


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