Black Vulture Facts | Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior

The black vulture (Coragyps atratus) belongs to the New World vulture and it is a large bird of prey. The American black vulture or black vulture occurs in the Central Chile, southeastern United States, Uruguay and many other countries. Like typical vultures, black vultures are also scavengers as they primarily feed on carrion.

Black Vulture Facts

Anatomy

  • Adult black vultures have an average body length of about 56–74 cm (22–29 in) with a wingspan measuring about 1.33–1.67 m (52–66 in).
  • The North American black vultures weigh up to 1.6–2.75 kg (3.5–6.1 lb) whereas the smaller species averages 1.18–1.94 kg (2.6–4.3 lb).
  • They have got 16–21 cm (6.3–8.3 in) long tail.
  • Black vultures are mainly recognized by rough grey head and neck while legs are grayish white.
  • They have remarkable eyesight with the help of which they search food.
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Geographic Range

  • Black vultures are thought to breed all along the southeastern United States and occupying much of the South America. In U.S. they are found in New Jersey while in South America black vultures survive in central Argentina, as well as they also live in the Caribbean islands.
  • They are primarily found in the warm and temperate regions of the western and central Canada.
  • The range also extends to the Central America and Mexico. Vultures migrate in short distances.

Habitat

  • American black vultures are likely to breed in open areas and woods. Vulture’s habitats include grasslands, moist lowland forests, coastal lowlands, deserts, swamps, pastures, wetlands, and shrublands.
  • They are less likely to make habitats in mountainous areas.

Behavior

  • Black vultures are primarily scavengers as they spend hours soaring at heights. Vultures mostly glide and they flap their wings there is need for it.
  • The wings are relatively short and less broad as compared to other vultures.
  • They produce hisses and grunts while eating.
  • Black vultures roost in large numbers.
  • They are highly aggressive and are often found going after the intruders.
  • They may form groups which may have as many as 100 individuals.
  • Black vultures take sunbath while spreading its wings.

Feeding Ecology & Diet

  • Prominent among the black vulture’s diet is carrion however they also feed on plant material, skunks, opossums, calves, young herons, and small animals.
  • They search food by chasing down other vultures and also by sight.
  • In order to find food they fly as low to the ground as possible to pick out the scent in the air. They could even catch the smell below the forest canopy.
  • American black vultures are the only vultures that prey on cattle. They rarely eat livestock or deer.
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Reproductive Biology

  • In Florida, the breeding season begins in January while in Ohio vultures typically breed in March. In South America however female lays eggs as late as September. Some of the populations do not breed until October or November.
  • A female lays eggs in a tree cavity or hollow log and they build nests more than 3 m (9.8 ft). They will not use any materials for making nests.
  • There are 2 bluish-grey eggs in a clutch. Each of the eggs measures around 7.56 cm × 5.09 cm (2.98 in × 2.00 in).
  • Both parents incubate the eggs that last about 4 – 6 weeks.
  • The breeding interval is of one year.
  • Young vultures remain in the nest for about 60 days but after 10 – 11 weeks they learn to fly skillfully.
  • The average lifespan of American black vultures is 11 years.
  • Predators of black vultures include mammals such as foxes, raccoons, and coatis.

Conservation Status

Least Concern

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