Black Vulture Black Vulture
Black Vulture

Scientific Classification

Common Name
black vulture
Genus Species
Coragyps (raven-vulture) atratus (clothed in black)

Fast Facts

The black vulture is a medium-sized, dark bird with a short, black tail, whitish legs, and a gray featherless head
Approximately 59 to 74 cm (23 to 28 in.) with a wingspan of 1.4 to 1.6 m (55 to 63 in.)
1.7 to 2.3 kg (3.8 to 5.1 lbs.)
Mainly carrion, but may also kill and eat small reptiles, birds, and mammals
37 to 41 days
Clutch Size
2 eggs
Sexual Maturity
Approximately 3 years
Life Span
May live up to 25 years
This species has an extremely large range and can be found in Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
Black vultures are most abundant at low elevations. They breed in dense woodlands but usually forage in open habitats. They roost in undisturbed stands of tall trees, including sycamores, pines, hickories, oaks, junipers, and bald cypress.
The total population is extremely large with at least 10,000 mature individuals. The population appears to be increasing and is not severely fragmented.
IUCN: Least Concern
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

Black vulture mating pairs may remain together and reuse a successful nesting site for many years.

Both the male and female parents take turns incubating their eggs.

Black vultures usually feed together in large groups, and are so aggressive that other vulture species will stay away.

When startled, a black vulture may regurgitate partially digested food to discourage predators and lessen its weight for flight.

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.

Vultures will often urinate on their own legs in order to increase evaporative cooling in the hot summer months.

These awesome birds are able to eat diseased meat without getting ill!

For more information about raptors, explore the Raptors InfoBook.

Ecology and Conservation

Black vultures are common throughout their range, and people many people consider them pests.

As scavengers, these birds play a vital role in the environment by removing decaying carcasses that could otherwise cause the spread of disease.

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


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.

BirdLife International. 2016. Coragyps atratus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22697624A93624950. Downloaded on 06 December 2018.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology - Downloaded on 06 December 2018.