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© Larry Master
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Coragyps atratus
OTHER NAMES: buzzard, carrion crow,
DESCRIPTION: The black vulture is a relatively large bird with a length of 22 to 24 inches. The wingspan is approximately four-and-a-half feet. It is primarily black with a white patch near each wing tip. The head is bare and grayish in color. Compared to the turkey vulture, it has a short tail. When in flight, it flaps its shorter and rounder wings more often and more rapidly than the turkey vulture.
DISTRIBUTION: The black vulture is common throughout all of
HABITAT: Black vultures can be found in open country, but they breed in light woodlands and thickets.
FEEDING HABITS: Black vultures are scavengers, and feed primarily on carrion (rotting meat). They also take weak, sick, or unprotected young birds and mammals. They are smaller but more aggressive than the turkey vulture and will drive the latter from a carcass. Both species are often found perched in trees, on fence posts, and on the ground; or flying overhead, especially on windy days, taking advantage of thermals or updrafts. Unlike turkey vultures, black vultures lack well-developed olfactory senses and rely on their vision rather than smell to help them locate a carcass. Often they will follow turkey vultures from the roost and take over a carcass which the turkey vultures have located by smell.
Bull, J., J. Farrand Jr. 1994. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds. Chaticleer Press, Inc.,
Author: Chas Moore, Wildlife Biologist, June 2005