Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)

Black Vulture

[order] FALCONIFORMES | [family] Cathartidae | [latin] Coragyps atratus | [authority] Bechstein, 1783 | [UK] Black Vulture | [FR] Urubu noir | [DE] Rabengeier | [ES] Zopilote Negro | [NL] Zwarte Gier


Monotypic species


Members of the genus Coragyps are vultures with different ancentors then the close relatives of the cathartes genus. Coragyps members locate prey using eyesight rather then smell. Coragyps is also known to kill livestock by mobbing and picking a sheep or calf in to shock and kill it.

Physical charateristics

The Black Vulture is a fairly large bird of prey, measuring 56-68 centimeters (22-27 in) in length, with a 1.37-1.67 meter (4.5-5.5 ft) wingspan. 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,[28] while the two front toes of the foot are long and have small webs at their bases. The feet are flat, relatively weak, and are poorly adapted to grasping; the talons are also not designed for grasping, as they are relatively blunt. 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. A leucistic Coragyps atratus brasiliensis was observed in Pinas, Ecuador in 2005. It had white plumage overall, with only the tarsus and tail as well as some undertail feathers being black. It was not an albino as its skin seemed to have had the normal, dark color and it was part of a flock of some twenty normally plumaged individuals.

Listen to the sound of Black Vulture

[audio: Vulture.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

recorded by Daniel De Granville

wingspan min.: 140 cm wingspan max.: 170 cm
size min.: 56 cm size max.: 68 cm
incubation min.: 28 days incubation max.: 41 days
fledging min.: 75 days fledging max.: 80 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 3  


North America, Latin America : widespread. The Black Vulture is most frequently seen in the warmer parts of the western hemisphere from roughly Washington DC to central Patagonia.


It prefers open land interspersed with areas of woods or brush. It is also found in moist lowland forests, shrublands and grasslands, wetlands and swamps, pastures, and heavily degraded former forests. Preferring lowlands, it is rarely seen in mountainous areas. It is usually seen soaring or perched on fence posts or dead trees


The timing of Black Vultures breeding season varies with the latitude at which they live. In the United States, birds in Florida begin breeding as early as January, for example, while those in Ohio generally do not start before March. In South America, Argentinian and Chilean birds begin egg-laying as early as September, while those further north on the continent typically wait until October. Some in South America breed even later than that?Black Vultures in Trinidad typically do not start until November. Pairs are formed following a courtship ritual which is performed on the ground: several males circle a female with their wings partially open as they strut and bob their heads. They sometimes perform courtship flights, diving or chasing each other over their chosen nest site. The Black Vulture lays its eggs on the ground in a wooded area, a hollow log, or some other cavity, seldom more than 3 meter (9.8 ft) above the ground. 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. Clutch size is generally two eggs, though this can vary from one to three. Both parents incubate the eggs, which hatch after 28 to 41 days. Upon hatching, the young are covered with white down.[ Both parents feed the nestlings, regurgitating food at the nest site. The young remain in the nest for two months, and after 75 to 80 days they are able to fly skillfully.

Feeding habits

Their main food is carrion, but they also kill some young or defenceless wild or domestic animals. They spend much time in the area of refuse tips and slaughter-houses, or anywhere meat in any form (fresh or putrid)is available. They also eat eggs and, if pressed, ripe and rotten fruit and vegetables, including oil palm nuts.

Video Black Vulture


copyright: youtube


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Black Vulture status Least Concern



Distribution map

Black Vulture distribution range map


Title Black Vulture Nesting, Behavior, and Growth
Abstract: Black Vultures (Coragypsa tratus) have nestedf or ..[more]..
Source: The Auk 98

download full text (pdf)

Title Allopreening in the Black Vulture
Abstract: Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus) regularly feed o..[more]..
Source: The Auk, 94(2)

download full text (pdf)

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