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Black Vulture
Coragyps atratus

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Increasing.

Other Names: American Black Vulture, Catharista atratus, Coragyps urubu, South American Black Vulture (brasiliensis, foetens).

Coragyps atratus
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Distribution: Nearctic/Neotropical. Eastern UNITED STATES south through MEXICO and Central America and throughout South America to central CHILE and central ARGENTINA; the breeding range has steadily increased northward in the UNITED STATES over the last century, and the occurrence of non-breeding individuals in southeastern CANADA is becoming more frequent. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic, although several subspecies were previously recognized. more....

Taxonomy: Formerly placed in the genus Catharistes. Some authors have used the name "American Black Vulture" to separate this species from the Old World species, Cinereous Vulture, which is called the "Black Vulture" in many parts of its range.

Movements: Partial migrant (Bildstein 2006). Probably sedentary in most parts of its vast range, but the northernmost populations in the United States are partially migratory (AOU 2008), and it is an altitudinal migrant in some areas of the Neotropics. Bildstein et al. (2007) documented migratory movements of Black Vultures from Costa Rica to Panama in winter, verifying the earlier suggestions of Eisenmann (1963) and Skutch (1969) that the species may be migratory there. Other earlier observers, including Wetmore (1965) in Panama, Howell and Webb (1995) in southern Mexico and northern Central America, and Monroe (1968) in Honduras, failed to detect similar movements in those countries, so perhaps not all individuals are migratory. Lee Jones saw a "cohesive" flock of 100 Black Vultures moving southwestward along the coast in southern Belize on 23 October 2007, and he suspected that these birds were migrating (Jones and Komar 2008). Over 5,000 were seen in fall 2005 at the Suchitoto hawk watch site in El Salvador's central valley (Jones and Komar 2006). Olivo (2007) recorded regular northward movements of Black Vultures at La Concepción in the eastern lowlands of Bolivia in both the wet and dry seasons, but he could not determine if these represented seasonal migration by different populations, regional or local dispersal movements, or merely daily short distance movements. more....

Habitat and Habits: Occurs mostly in lowlands and middle elevations; less common at higher elevations. More abundant around towns, garbage dumps, and open country in general than in forested regions or other natural habitats. May occur in flocks containing hundreds of individuals, particularly around urban garbage dumps. Typically soars at greater heights than the Turkey Vulture with wings held flat, and flies more, alternating soaring with heavy, slow wingbeats. Depends solely on visual cues and the behavior of other vultures to locate food. Gregarious, often feeding in loose aggregations, and dominant over Turkey Vultures and Greater Yellow-headed Vultures at carcasses. In some areas, these birds become so tame that they enter houses and steal food. more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds on “almost anything remotely edible” (Hilty 2003), mainly carrion of any type, but particularly “red meat” (Sick 1993). Also recorded feeding on turtle eggs and fruits (bananas, palm fruits, avocados, coconuts). More than other cathartids, this species preys on small, helpless living animals, including newborn calves, lambs, and tortoises in some areas. This species and other cathartid vultures are fond of eating salt (Coleman et al. 1985). Black Vultures often hop and runs along the ground in feeding areas. more....

Breeding: No nest is built, but the eggs are laid in a cave, in the hollow under a large tree, in a hollow log, under dense tangles of vegetation, or in piles of rocks. In Sao Paulo, Brazil, this species nests on top of high buildings (Sick 1993). Clutch size is near always 2 eggs, which are smooth in texture and pale greenish-white with bold dark brown blotches, mostly on the large end. The interval between the first and second egg is two days. In Ecuador, The incubation period was 35 days in Tennessee (Crook 1935) and Ecuador, and the nestling period was 70-77 days (Marchant 1960); in Argentina, the incubation period was 39-41 days, and the nestling period was 74-81 days (Di Giacomo 2005). more....

Conservation: One of the most abundant "raptor" species in the Western Hemisphere, still expanding its range in many areas, especially in eastern North America, a long-term trend that is probably being accelerated by global climate change (Kiff 2000). It is also expanding its range in tropical areas where deforestation is occurring. Not as widespread as the Turkey Vulture, but occurs in greater numbers in areas of broad sympatry. This species and Turkey Vultures have often been subjected to local population control by poisoning and trapping in the southern United States (even to the present time) and other countries. Categorized globally as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. more....

Important References: 
Bent, A.C. 1937. Life histories of North American birds of prey. Order
  Falconiformes (Part 1). U.S. National Museum Bulletin 167.
Buckley, N.J. 1999. Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus). In A. Poole and A.
  Gill (eds.), The Birds of North America no. 411. The Birds of North
  America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Houston, D.C. 1994. Family Cathartidae (New World vultures). Pp. 24-41 in
  del Hoyo, J, A. Elliott, and J. Sargatal (eds.), Handbook of the birds of
  the world. Vol. 2. New World vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions,
  Barcelona, Spain.
Jackson, J.A. 1983. Nesting phenology, nest site selection, and
  reproductive success of Black and Turkey Vultures. Pp. 245-270 in S.R.
  Wilbur and J.A. Jackson (eds.), Vulture biology and management. University
  of California Press, Berkeley, CA.
Jackson, J.A. 1988. Black Vulture. Pp. 11-24 in R.S. Palmer (ed.),
  Handbook of North American birds, Vol. 4. Yale University Press, New Haven.
Kiff, L.F. 2000. The current status of North American vultures. Pp.
  175-189 in R.D. Chancellor and B.-U. Meyburg (eds.), Raptors at
  risk. World Working Group on Birds of Prey/Hancock House, Berlin/Blaine, WA.
Schlee, M.A. 2000. The status of vultures in Latin America. Pp. 191-206 in
  R.D. Chancellor and B.-U. Meyburg (eds.), Raptors at risk. World Working
  Group on Birds of Prey, Berlin, and Hancock House, Blaine, WA.
Wetmore, A. 1962. Systematic notes concerned with the avifauna of Panama.
  Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 145(1):1-14.

Sites of Interest:
Black Vulture photos.
Aves de Rapina do Brasil
Species account with emphasis on Brazil.

Bildstein, Keith
Dobrev, Dobromir
Duerr, Adam
Goodrich, Laurie
Lambertucci, Sergio
Olivo Quiroga, Cristian E.
Sarasola, José Hernán

Last modified: 7/3/2011

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Black Vulture Coragyps atratus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 20 Sep. 2021

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