Black Vulture

Black Vulture

Details About The Black Vulture

  • General Information

    Black Vultures are dark with silvery-white patches near wing tips that are very conspicuous in flight. They have a bare head, grayish in color. Legs may also appear grayish in color, and their feet extend beyond a short tail. Wings are held flat when soaring.

    Latin Name: Coragyps atratus
    Class: Aves
    Order: Falconiformes
    Family: Accipitridae
    Length: 23-28 inches
    Weight: 3.8-5.2 pounds
    Wingspan: 54-66 inches
    Common Name: Buzzard, Earrion Erow, Charleston Eagle
    Etymology: korax (Greek) - "raven"; gyps (Greek) - "vulture"; atratus (Latin) - "clothed in black, as in mourning"; vulturus (Latin) - "tearer"

  • Flight, Voice & Habitat

    The active flight of a Black Vulture consists of 3-5 shallow, rapid, stiff wing beats followed by a short period of glide. This vulture flaps its wings more often and more rapidly than a Turkey Vulture. The Black Vulture has heavier wing loading (shorter wings so less surface area for weight) than the Turkey Vulture, requiring stronger thermals for soaring, so they usually become active an hour or more after Turkey Vultures. They are also often seen soaring higher than Turkey Vultures.

    Because of their lack of a voice box, the Black Vulture has no true call. This vulture may hiss or grunt when feeding or disturbed at nest.

    Black Vultures prefer open country wherever carrion is present. Sometimes -- as in the Carolinas -- the Black Vulture shares habitat with Turkey Vultures, but are not as migratory.

  • Nesting

    Black Vultures do not construct a nest, and will sometimes lay their eggs on the ground under a bush. They will nest in thickets, in a hollow tree or log, in caves or occasionally in abandoned buildings. Breeding is in solitary pairs. Eggs are greenish white with brown markings and there are often 2 eggs, rarely 3, differing in size, color, markings and shape. Incubation lasts about 37-41 days and both sexes incubate. Fledglings are ready to leave the nest at around 14 weeks. Nestlings are covered with buff to cream colored down. Age at first flight is about 75-80 days. Black Vultures nest two weeks earlier than turkey vultures and begin breeding around 3 years of age.

  • Distribution

    Black Vultures range from Kansas, Indiana and Pennsylvania, south to southeastern and southern United States and into South America.

  • Food

    Carrion (prefers large carcasses), but also will take weak, sick or unprotected young birds and mammals. Black Vultures have stronger beaks to break up carrion than Turkey Vultures. Black Vultures are more likely to kill an animal (afterbirth and young born) than Turkey Vultures. In some areas, they will eat sea turtle eggs and newly hatched young turtles and raid heron (and other shorebird) rookeries for eggs and young birds.

  • Current Resident Birds

    Bonsai, the Black Vulture, is a flight show star, flying over the heads of spectators from long distances. He came to Carolina Raptor Center as a baby in 2011 from the American Wildlife Refuge in Wake County, NC, and was small for his species for a long time. As a result, the staff and volunteers dubbed him "Bonsai" after the Japanese art form using miniature trees in containers.

    A country girl from Alamance County, Igor, the Black Vulture, moved to Carolina Raptor Center in 1993. She was named for the fictional humpback in Gene Wilder's Young Frankenstein. She is a small female and was thought to be a male until she laid eggs! No small feat for a male bird. You can distinguish her from her roommate Tombstone because her face is lighter.

    Nebari, the Black Vulture, is the newest Black Vulture in the collection at Carolina Raptor Center. Named for the roots of the Bonsai tree, Nebari is close "friends" with Bonsai, another Black Vulture at Carolina Raptor Center. Nebari came to live at Carolina Raptor Center in 2014 from Love Valley, NC. His keepers just LOVE this bird.

    Tombstone, the Black Vulture, was named because of the vulture's cultural connection to death and cemetaries. Black Vultures have all sorts of interesting adaptations to kill germs as a result of their pechant for putting their heads and feet into carcasses. Tombstone is a local Mecklenburg County bird and moved to Carolina Raptor Center in 2005.

  • Fun Facts & Other Interesting Information

    Now what did he say? Black Vultures lack a voice box and so their vocal abilities are limited to making raspy hisses and grunts.

    A group of vultures is called a wake, committee, venue, kettle, or volt. The term kettle refers to vultures in flight, while committee, volt, and venue refer to vultures resting in trees. "Wake" is reserved for a group of vultures that are feeding.