Black Vulture

Black Vulture

Scientific Classification

Common Name
black vulture
Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Falconiformes
Family
Cathartidae
Genus Species
Coragyps (raven-vulture) atratus (clothed in black)

Fast Facts

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 to 74 cm (23 to 28 in.) with a wingspan of 1.4 to 1.6 m (55 to 63 in.)
Weight
1.7 to 2.3 kg (3.8 to 5.1 lbs.)
Diet
Mainly carrion, but may also kill and eat small animals including reptiles, birds, and mammals
Incubation
37 to 41 days
Clutch Size
2 eggs
Sexual Maturity
Approximately 3 years
Life Span
May live up to 25 years
Range
Southeastern United States, Central America, and South America
Habitat

Population
Global: Unknown
Status 
IUCN: Not listed
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

A pair of black vultures 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 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.


Bibliography

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.