Turkey Vultures have longer, straighter wings and longer tails than Black Vultures. They hold their wings upward, in a V-shape, and don’t angle them forward as much as Black Vultures. Turkey Vultures have grayish undersides to their flight feathers, giving their wings a distinct two-toned look instead of the uniform black with white stars that Black Vultures show. Adult Turkey Vultures have red heads, but this can be hard to see at distance and young birds have blackish heads, so be careful in using this for identification. Bald and Golden Eagles are much larger than Black Vultures with longer wings, longer tails, and larger, feathered heads. Immature eagles show isolated white patches on the wings, but the white is not restricted to under the primaries as in Black Vultures. Black Vultures have a broad-winged, short-tailed shape reminiscent of buteos like the Red-tailed Hawk, but buteos have larger heads, slightly longer tails, and are never as uniformly black underneath.
Find This Bird
Keep your eyes to the skies on warm days for Black Vultures soaring high up on thermals. Their broad, forward-canted wings, small head, and short tail give them a distinctive silhouette even if you can’t see any color. They also have a distinctive flight style, giving a few deep, rapid wingbeats and then snapping their wings out wide a little like a baseball umpire signaling “Safe.” In the morning while the air is still cool, look for flocks perched in roost trees or structures, where you may see them spreading their wings to catch the sun. You may also spot these vultures gathering at roadkill or around dumpsters.
You Might Also Like
Information Seekers: What do Black Vultures gain from roosting? Living Bird, Autumn 2011