Black Vulture

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

Click any photo to enlarge

A Black Vulture sitting high on a metal bar connected to a set of very tall electrical poles. It looks like it may be sunning its body as vultures tend to do at the beginning of their day. (29 May 2012 6:46 am)

RANGE: “…from the southeastern United States to Central Chile and Uruguay in South America. Although a common and widespread species, it has a somewhat more restricted distribution than its compatriot, the Turkey Vulture, which breeds well into Canada and south to Tierra del Fuego.” – Wikipedia

I notice the head on a vulture is quite flexible. It seems to be the main tool they use to groom themselves. You may have to look closely to distinguish where the head is in this picture. (29 May 2012)

NAME MEANING: “The common name “vulture” is derived from the Latin word vulturus, which means “tearer” and is a reference to its feeding habits.[5] The species name, atratus, means “clothed in black,”[6] from the Latin ater ‘black’.[7] The genus name, Coragyps means “raven-vulture”,[8] from a contraction of the Greek corax/κόραξ and gyps/γὺψ for the respective birds. The family name, Cathartidae, means “purifier” and is also derived from the Greek kathartēs/” – Wikipedia

This is a scene I’m particularly fond of, a gathering of many Black Vultures. You can see much more detail if you click to enlarge it. These great birds are sitting atop a pole structure for a very tall electrical line located in the field beside my property. (20 Sep 2012)

This is what they look like when they all take off at once to soar and hunt together. (15 Oct 2012)

FOOD: “In natural settings, the Black Vulture eats mainly carrion.[40] In areas populated by humans, it may scavenge at garbage dumps, but also takes eggs and decomposing plant material and can kill or injure newborn or incapacitated mammals. Like other vultures, it plays an important role in the ecosystem by disposing of carrion which would otherwise be a breeding ground for disease.[41]” – Wikipedia
“Scientists have discovered that this species lacks the sophisticated sense of smell possessed by the Turkey Vulture, and that Black Vultures often wait for Turkey Vultures to find food before driving them off and taking the carcass for themselves.” – Encyclopedia of Life

Here’s a photo of 2 adult Black vultures (upper left) and a juvenile vulture (lower right). (15 Oct 2012)

BREEDING: “The Black Vulture lays its eggs on the ground in a wooded area, a hollow log, or some other cavity, seldom more than 3 metres (9.8 ft) above the ground.[27] While it generally does not use any nesting materials, it may decorate the area around the nest with bits of brightly colored plastic, shards of glass, or metal items such as bottle caps.[35] Clutch size is generally two eggs, though this can vary from one to three.” – Wikipedia
“Black Vultures typically breed and roost in dense woodland while feeding in more open habitats, such as grasslands, meadows, and fields. In some areas, Black Vultures also utilize man-made structures, such as abandoned buildings and utility poles.” – Encyclopedia of Life

The remaining pictures are from a single sighting on 9 Dec 2012, where Black Vultures were feeding on a carcass close to the road that runs by my house. These photos were not taken on my “acre in Texas” but from just a few steps from the bottom of my driveway.

A bunch of Black Vultures gathered around a carcass. They have just re-landed after being scared off by a passing car.

Here they are being disturbed again by a passing car.

I think this is a cool shot of a Black Vulture coming in for a landing.

The vulture in the middle has a chunk of meat in its mouth.

More Black Vultures landing.

Four Black Vultures are huddled around the carcass. I don’t know what the one on the left is doing. It sat over to the side almost the entire time I was photographing. Perhaps its job was to keep a lookout and warn of approaching danger? I love the two birds flying in this photo, they look like airplanes coming in for a landing, with their “landing gear” already lowered.

I think the 3 flyers in this one are taking off (rather than landing). This is the last decent photo I snapped before all the Black Vultures vacated this spot.

As soon as the Black Vultures were gone, Turkey Vultures began to appear.

Turkey Vultures are easy to distinguish from Black Vultures, mainly due to the red face and legs, wider wing span, and white (silver-gray) feathers on the bottom-side of the wings.

Much more detail about the Black Vulture can be found at Wikipedia (click here) and Encyclopedia of Life (click here).

If you are interested in the Turkey Vulture (seen in the last 2 photos), I have a post on this blog featuring photos and a bio (click here).

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