Size: 60 cm long, 3.5 to 4.5 pounds
Voice: The black vulture makes grunts and raspy squeals when squabbling over food, and in interactions with mates, young, and parents. Their communication techniques are primarily visual, as the sounds they can make are limited both in variety and volume.
Diet/Feeding: Feeding mainly on carrion, and enjoying fish, black vultures are also known to supplement their diet with small amounts of vegetable matter. In fact, they are very fond of end-of-season pumpkins,and in southern coastal areas have been observed enjoying overripe coconuts!
Unable to smell as well as their close relative the turkey vulture, this vulture often observes from a distance, allowing turkey vultures to scout out a meal, whereupon these dominant vultures drop down and take over.
Flight: The black vulture flies with its wings in a flat line. Its tail is rounded like a fan, and the undersides of the wings have distinctly lighter primaries, making it look as though the outer tips of the wings are white. Taking off and landing is an amusing spectacle, as these are among the least graceful of the vulture family.
Range/Habitat: Common in southeastern United States, in forests, fields, and coasts.
Behavior: On the ground, these gangly vultures hop like comical chickens. They adapt easily to well-populated areas, and have been known to befriend humans. Pushier than their local relatives, the turkey vulures, they often dominate a feeding site, even if they were not the first ones to discover it.
Life Cycle: Young fledge 70 days after hatching. Sexes appear identical at all ages, and there is no seasonal variation in their plumage. Juveniles look very much like their parents.
Breeding: These vultures breed every year. Courtship activities involve chasing, flying high into the air. spiraling down, dancing on the ground, and bumping chests.
The black vulture lays 1 to 3 eggs in a cave, tree stump, or on the ground. The eggs are incubated for 37 to 55 days. These birds may use the same "nest" for several consecutive years. A pair of black vultures can raise only one brood per year. Both parents take responsibility for their offspring, bringing home meals in the form of regurgitated food.
Status: The Black Vulture is fairly common throughout the southern portion of the United States. Although it has been persecuted for years due to misunderstanding,
this hardy bird has continued to thrive, adapting to highly populated areas, and modern food sources such as public landfills.
Folklore, Misc. Information: The Black vulture holds a very special place in the culture of the bushnegroes of Suriname. One of their important gods is called Opete (their word for vulture). Legend has it that their god travels on the wings of a vulture companion.
An Iriquois myth tells the story of how the black vulture came to become a scvenger. The birds' Chief, the Golden Eagle, needed to assign jobs to all the birds. The vulture was given the task of cleaning the earth of carrion. Though his diet seems unpleasant, he flies in the clean air and bathes in the fresh water, for his heart is pure.
A Black Vulture in many languages:
English: Black Vulture, Carrion Crow
Latin: Coragyps atratus, "a crow-like black vulture"