American black vulture, Mexican vulture, Zopilote, Gallinazo
The Black vulture (Coragyps atratus) is amongst the most abundant vultures of the New World, and out of all the members in the Cathartidae family, has the most varied diet. These are highly social birds that demonstrate fierce family loyalty. They will share food with their relatives and feed their young for months after fledging. Their lifespan is 10 years on average, and the longest-banded individual has lived up to 25.6 years.
Diurnal animals are active during the daytime, with a period of sleeping or other inactivity at night. The timing of activity by an animal depends ...
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of a...
Scavengers are animals that consume dead organisms that have died from causes other than predation or have been killed by other predators. While sc...
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which liv...
Soaring birds can maintain flight without wing flapping, using rising air currents. Many gliding birds are able to "lock" their extended wings by m...
Congregatory animals tend to gather in large numbers in specific areas as breeding colonies, for feeding, or for resting.
Oviparous animals are female animals that lay their eggs, with little or no other embryonic development within the mother. This is the reproductive...
Gliding flight is heavier-than-air flight without the use of thrust and is employed by gliding animals. Birds in particular use gliding flight to m...
Arboreal locomotion is the locomotion of animals in trees. In habitats in which trees are present, animals have evolved to move in them. Some anima...
Predators are animals that kill and eat other organisms, their prey. Predators may actively search for or pursue prey or wait for it, often conceal...
Monogamy is a form of relationship in which both the male and the female has only one partner. This pair may cohabitate in an area or territory for...
Flocking birds are those that tend to gather to forage or travel collectively. Avian flocks are typically associated with migration. Flocking also ...
Partial migration is when within a migratory species or even within a single population, some individuals migrate while others do not.
The Black vulture is a fairly large scavenger. Its plumage is mainly glossy black. The head and neck are featherless and the skin is dark gray and wrinkled. The iris of the eye is brown and has a single incomplete row of eyelashes on the upper lid and two rows on the lower lid. The legs are grayish-white, while the two front toes of the foot are long and have small webs at their bases. The nostrils are not divided by a septum, but rather are perforate; from the side, one can see through the beak. The wings are broad but relatively short. The bases of the primary feathers are white, producing a white patch on the underside of the wing's edge, which is visible in flight. The tail is short and square, barely reaching past the edge of the folded wings.
Black vultures live in tropical and temperate zones from southern Canada to the south of South America, including continental parts of the U.S. In the north of their range, they migrate south in the fall, returning in spring. They prefer open land interspersed with areas of woods or brush. They are also found in moist lowland forests, shrublands and grasslands, wetlands and swamps, pastures, and heavily degraded former forests. Black vultures rarely occur in mountainous areas and are often seen in pastures, suburban and urban areas soaring or perched on fence posts or dead trees.
Black vultures soar high while searching for food, holding their wings horizontally when gliding. They flap in short bursts which are followed by short periods of gliding. They are generally silent but can make hisses and grunts when agitated or while feeding. Black vultures are gregarious and roost in large groups. In areas where their ranges overlap, Black vultures will roost on the bare branches of dead trees alongside groups of Turkey vultures. Black vultures generally forage in groups late in the day; they locate food either by sight or by following other vultures to carcasses. Their heightened ability to detect odors allows them to search for carrion below the forest canopy. Black vultures are aggressive when feeding, and may even chase the slightly larger Turkey vultures from carcasses. Usually, vultures are silent, though they may hiss, grunt, and make low barking sounds while fighting over food. When startled, Black vultures will regurgitate just-eaten food so that they can take off to fly.
Black vultures are carnivores and mainly scavengers, eating the carcasses of large animals, and sometimes small dead mammals. They also kill baby herons in nesting colonies and eat domestic ducks, newborn calves, small birds and mammals, eggs, opossums, skunks, ripe or rotten vegetables or fruit, and young turtles.
Black vultures are monogamous and pairs mate for life. They engage in aerial courtship displays with circling flight, chasing, and then spiraling down. A pair may also display while together on a perch: they spread their wings and jump into the air while making yapping noises. In the southern part of their range breeding may begin as early as January, while breeding in the north is from March to June. A black vulture does not build a nest but uses a natural cavity such as a cave, rock crevice, tree, or hollow log. 2 eggs are laid and are incubated by both parents for 38 to 45 days, each taking a turn every day. Both parents feed the chicks by regurgitating liquefied food until when they are two weeks old, they give them solid food. The chicks fledge when they are 10 to 14 weeks old and depend on their parents for up to 8 months. They then forage in a family group until the following breeding season.
The main threats to this species include: collision with buildings and vehicles, electrocution, poisoning meant for vermin, illegal shooting, leg traps, and lead poisoning from ingesting pellets and bullet fragments in the carcasses of game animals that are not retrieved by hunters.
The All About Birds resource records the total Black vulture breeding population as being about 20 million individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List, and its numbers today are increasing.
Black vultures play an important role in the environment as ecological sentinels. In addition to removing dead animals, vultures recycle nutrients that are used by plants.
Social animals are those animals that interact highly with other animals, usually of their own species (conspecifics), to the point of having a rec...