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October 9, 2013

Miracles of Migration X: The Black Vulture

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 5:40 am

by Shyamala Rao

The Black Vulture also known as the American Black Vulture is a New World Vulture and belongs to the genus Carogyps. It is the only member of the genus. The Black Vulture is found from South Eastern United States all the way South to Chile and Uruguay. The other vulture in the United States is the Turkey vulture whose range extends from southern Canada to South America to the Tierra del Fuego. The Black Vulture lives in wide open areas and close to woodlands and shrublands. Black Vultures prefer lowlands and are not found in mountainous areas.


The Black Vulture is a large bird adult size is 25 inches in length and a wing span of 5 feet. The bird has a small unfeathered head, a hooked bill and white legs. The plumage is all black, the wings were short and broad with the legs are shorter than the tip of the tail. In flight the wings show broad white patches in the base of the primary wings. Black Vultures eat carrion and they have to rely on sight rather than smell to locate their food. They tend to watch the Turkey Vultures and often will chase off the Turkey Vultures and steal their food. Infrequently they will consume eggs and young mammals. Mostly they feed on carrion.


The Black Vultures breed towards the end of winter and before spring begins, the eggs are laid in a cavity in a tree, in a log or just on the ground in wooded areas. The female lays 2 eggs, both parents incubate the eggs and the eggs hatch in 4 to 6 weeks. It is 2 months before the chicks fledge. Both parents feed the chicks until they fledge. The eggs and chicks are in danger from predators such as raccoons and foxes. The adult bird is not vulnerable to predation. The adult black vulture is aggressive.


The Black Vultures may be resident and stay in Texas year round or they may migrate to Central and South America. The migrating colonies leave North America in October and November. These are large heavy birds and cannot handle long powered flights. They have to glide and engage in soaring flights. These flights do not take as much energy as powered flying does. The birds migrate in the daytime and in large groups. During Hawk Watches it is common to see long streams of various types of Hawks and Both Turkey and Black Vultures engaged in soaring and gliding on thermal currents heading out to the Southern Hemisphere. In the last days of winter and definitely before spring the vultures return to their nesting and breeding grounds.

1 Comment »

  1. A superb rundown on the Black vulture! Actually, I find pleasure in photographing both the Blacks and Turkeys when I see them solo or in groups. After all, they do fit into our lives and are quite unique. Many people are not aware that the Blacks will often kill newborn calves, lambs, goats, etc., rather than sit and wait for death to happen. A couple years ago I observed three Blacks on fence posts watching two newborn goats. They sat patiently waiting for the proper timing … fortunately, the adult goat became aware of their intentions and let the kids to join up with the remainder of the herd.

    Very informative and well-written!

    Comment by Jim Baines — November 1, 2013 @ 11:09 am

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