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Black Vulture

Coragyps atratus ORDER: CATHARTIFORMES FAMILY: CATHARTIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

With sooty black plumage, a bare black head, and neat white stars under the wingtips, Black Vultures are almost dapper. Whereas Turkey Vultures are lanky birds with teetering flight, Black Vultures are compact birds with broad wings, short tails, and powerful wingbeats. The two species often associate: the Black Vulture makes up for its poor sense of smell by following Turkey Vultures to carcasses. Highly social birds with fierce family loyalty, Black Vultures share food with relatives, feeding young for months after they’ve fledged.

Calls

Black Vultures are silent most of the time. They make raspy, drawn-out hissing sounds while feeding and fighting, along with grunting noises that can sound like hungry pigs or dogs barking in the distance. Courting vultures may give a yapping sound. Nestlings give low hisses or coughs to beg for food, and adults at the nest sometimes give creaky, pigeonlike coos.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

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.

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Information Seekers: What do Black Vultures gain from roosting? Living Bird, Autumn 2011

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