Turkey Vulture or Black Vulture?

COMMON NAME: Turkey Vulture
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Cathartes aura
FAMILY: Cathartidae

COMMON NAME: Black Vulture
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Coragyps atratus
FAMILY: Cathartidae

Click on any picture to enlarge

It may be just me, but for years I’ve looked up at the sky to see the vultures flying overhead, assuming all of them were Turkey Vultures. I did this ever since someone once pointed up at one and said “that’s a Turkey Vulture”. Well, from a person-on-the-ground’s-eye-view, all vultures looked pretty much the same to me, so I assumed they were all Turkey Vultures.

It wasn’t until I got a good dSLR camera with a telephoto lens last February and began taking vulture photos and looking at them on my computer and comparing them to pictures in bird identification books. Then it dawned on me that my pictures, and the skies overhead this property, were full of both vultures.

The Black Vulture is the smaller of the two, has white wing tips and a gray head. It also has shorter, more even tail feathers that are black underneath.

The Turkey Vulture has a red head, a larger wing span, and white feathers across the entire length of the underside of its wings. The tail feathers form a longer, more rounded shape and are white underneath like the wing feathers.

What an awesome sight, to see these two flying in unison for the moment, one just over top the other. It’s almost as if they are performing in an air show. To catch this as a photograph was quite a thrill for me, making this my favorite vulture photo to-date.

The Black Vulture began heading off in a slightly different direction and soon the two were off in different parts of the sky. But we’ll always have our moment caught on film won’t we my friends? But I’ll be waiting and I’ll be watching for that next awesome low flight overhead, that next vulture modeling pose, that next joyful thrill of the “shoot.”

For additional interesting pictures and biological information on each of these vultures, please visit my Turkey Vulture post (click here) and my Black Vulture post (click here).

These posts will also contain links to other resources for these magnificent birds.

4 thoughts on “Turkey Vulture or Black Vulture?

  1. This is interesting. I thought I had a family of black vultures living near my house, and I was confused when I began seeing a few with red heads and different wing markings in the group. Apparently they live and fly together! I knew they were social, but not to that extent. Nice picture 🙂

    By the way, if you feed them they may take an interest in you and come closer…


  2. Thank you. Ok, so good, I'm not the only one who was confused. I didn't know that about feeding them. I usually can't get very close because my 4 dogs are always with me, either around the property or out on a walk. Maybe one day I'll get out without them!

    I'm glad you enjoyed the pictures.


  3. Thank you Francisco. In your photo, because of the wing span, it looks to me like they are both Turkey Vultures, but you probably already figured that out.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s