Black Vulture

Coragyps atratus
Prepared by: 
Ann Walton
  • Length: 22-28 inches
  • Wingspan: 54-63 inches
  • Weight: 1100-2300 grams

Adults are a dull black with slight iridescence on wings and tail. In flight, there is a whitish patch near tip of underwings. The grayish head and neck are bare, with heavily folded and warty skin. Beak is black with yellowish tip. Legs are white, and tail is short. Immatures are duller with black, unwrinkled, downy heads; their beaks are entirely black. Rigid-winged, horizontal flight is interrupted with series of 3-6 quick, shallow wing beats.

Subspecies: 
3 recognized; NA subspecies is nominate
Distribution: 
Southern U.S. through Central America and most of South America
Habitat: 
Found anywhere in lowland, especially in open country; does not frequent dense forests. Associates closely with human habitation.
Feeding: 
A scavenger, taking any animal food available (insects, birds’ eggs, fish, small and large animals). Congregates in large numbers around carcasses, often displacing the Turkey Vultures by their numbers. Sense of smell weak, so in forest edge areas depends on Turkey Vultures to find the food. Does regularly kill small prey, such as insects, fish, small reptiles, nestlings, etc.
Breeding: 
Egg laying in March – May. Clutch size 2 eggs. Nests in shallow caves, on rocky outcrops between boulders, on ground near trees, or in hollow stumps. No nesting materials.
Movements: 
Most NA birds are resident, although there is some movement through Panama with the regular seasonal migration.
Status: 
Widespread and abundant, especially around human habitation, from which it has definitely benefited.
Note: 
Black, and other New World Vultures, may be moved to the Order Ciconiidae (Storks), based on DNA findings.