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Black Vulture

Black Vulture

The Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) is a scavenger bird native to the Americas, playing a crucial role in maintaining a clean and healthy ecosystem. You can find these fascinating birds in our Birds of the Americas exhibit. Let’s learn more about their diet, habitat, size, and conservation status, as well as some interesting facts that make the Black Vulture stand out.


Black Vultures, like other vultures, are scavengers, primarily feeding on carrion (dead animals). They are opportunistic feeders and will consume a wide variety of carcasses, from small mammals and birds to larger animals like deer. They play a vital role in cleaning up the environment by consuming carcasses that might otherwise spread disease.


Black Vultures inhabit a wide range of habitats, including forests, grasslands, deserts, and wetlands. They can be found from the southeastern United States to Central and South America. These birds are social creatures and are often seen roosting in large groups, typically in trees or on man-made structures like buildings and bridges.

Size and Weight

Black Vultures are medium-sized birds, with a wingspan of about 4.9 to 5.6 feet (1.5 to 1.7 meters). Their body length typically ranges from 22 to 27 inches (56 to 69 cm), and they weigh between 4 to 6 pounds (1.8 to 2.7 kg). Both males and females are similar in size and appearance.

Conservation Status

The Black Vulture is currently listed as “Least Concern” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Their population is considered stable, and they are widespread throughout their range. However, they may face some local threats, such as habitat loss, poisoning, or persecution due to their scavenging habits.

Interesting Facts

Strong Sense of Smell:

Unlike their relative, the Turkey Vulture, Black Vultures have a weak sense of smell. They rely more on their keen eyesight to locate food, often following Turkey Vultures to find carcasses.

Bald Head:

Black Vultures have a bald head, which is an adaptation for hygiene. The lack of feathers on their head helps keep them clean as they feed on carcasses, reducing the risk of bacterial infections.

Family Life:

Black Vultures form strong family bonds and are known to roost together in large groups. They have a monogamous mating system, with pairs staying together for many years. Both parents share incubation duties and care for their young.

Soaring Skills:

Black Vultures are known for their impressive soaring abilities. They utilize thermals, which are columns of warm, rising air, to help them stay aloft with minimal energy expenditure. This allows them to search for food over vast areas efficiently.

Intimidation Tactics:

Black Vultures are known to intimidate other vultures and scavengers by working together in groups to drive them away from a carcass, giving them access to more food.

Visit the Black Vulture at the Abilene Zoo

Be sure to stop by our Birds of the Americas exhibit during your visit to the Abilene Zoo to observe the captivating Black Vulture. These birds play a critical role in maintaining a balanced ecosystem, and by learning more about their habits and adaptations, you’ll gain a newfound appreciation for these often misunderstood creatures.

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