Black Vulture

Black Vulture



COMMON NAME: black vulture
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
ORDER: Falconiformes
FAMILY: Cathartidae
GENUS SPECIES: Coragyps (raven-vulture) atratus (clothed in black)


DESCRIPTION: The black vulture is a medium-sized, dark vulture with a short, black tail, whitish legs, and a gray featherless head
SIZE: Approximately 59-74 cm (23-28 in.) with a wingspan of 1.4-1.6 m (55-63 in.)
WEIGHT: 1.7-2.3 kg (3.8-5.1 lb.)
DIET: Mainly carrion, but may also kill and eat small animals including reptiles, birds, and mammals
INCUBATION: 37-41 days
SEXUAL MATURITY: Approximately 3 years
LIFE SPAN: May live up to 25 years
RANGE: Southeastern United States, Central America, and South America
HABITAT: Southeastern United States, Central America, and South America
STATUS: IUCN Not listed
CITES Not listed
USFWS Not listed


1. A pair of black vultures may remain together and reuse a successful nesting site for many years.
2. Both the male and female parents take turns incubating their eggs.
3. Black vultures usually feed together in large groups, and are so aggressive that other vulture species will stay away.
4. When startled, a black vulture may regurgitate partially digested food to discourage predators and lessen its weight for flight.
5. Farmers watch the skies when they need to locate a one of their cows giving birth. The vultures fly high above the cows, keeping an eye out for the afterbirth.
6. Vultures will often urinate on their own legs in order to increase evaporative cooling in the hot summer months.
7. These awesome birds are able to eat diseased meat without getting ill!
8. For more information about raptors, explore the RAPTORS INFOBOOK.


Black vultures are common throughout their range, and people who consider them pests often kill them. As scavengers, these birds play a vital role in the environment by removing animal matter that could otherwise cause the spread of disease.

Vultures are also predators, occasionally hunting small animals. Because vultures have a negative image in many cultures, public education may be one of the most helpful conservation tools for preserving these birds.


Clark, W.S. and B.K. Wheeler. Peterson Field Guide: Hawks. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1987.

Gotch, A.F. Birds - Their Latin Names Explained. Dorset: Blandford Press, 1981.

Palmer, R.S. (ed.). Handbook of North American Birds. Vol. 4. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988.

Peterson, R.T. Peterson Field Guide: Eastern Birds. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1980.