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Black Vulture

Black Vulture

Black Vulture
Class: Aves
Order: Falconiformes
Family: Accipitridae
Subfamily: Aegypiinae
Genus: Coragyps

Length: 23-28 in.
Weight: 3.8-5.2 lbs.
Wingspan: 54-66 in.
Common Name: buzzard, carrion crow, Charleston eagle
Etymology: korax (Greek) - "raven"; gyps (Greek) - "vulture"; atratus (Latin) - "clothed in black, as in mourning"; vulturus (Latin) - "tearer"
Description: 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.

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Flight, Voice, and Habitat:

Active flight 3-5 shallow, rapid, stiff wing beats followed by a short period of glide. Flaps wings more often and more rapidly than turkey vultures. 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.

Hisses or grunts when feeding or disturbed at nest. They are seldom heard and have no voice box.

Open country wherever carrion is present. Sometime shares habitat with turkey vultures, but are not as migratory.


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. Breed around 3 years of age.


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


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. More likely to kill an animal (afterbirth and young born) than turkey vultures. In some areas will eat sea turtle eggs and newly hatched young turtles. Will raid heron (and other shorebird) rookeries for eggs and young birds.

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