Natural History

The black vulture (Coragyps atratus) is a large scavenging bird often seen near highways in search of carrion (decaying animals). They are not technically raptors due to their lack of strong talons and hooked beaks. These iconic, large birds are mostly black with a white patch near each wingtip and lack feathers on the top of their heads due to their messy eating habits. The lack of feathers  on top of their head keeps them cleaner and prevents wasted energy from continual bathing. Unlike turkey vultures, black vultures depend on their vision to find food. They are also more aggressive than turkey vultures when it comes to protecting carcasses.

When breeding, two white or gray-green eggs with brown blotches are usually laid under a bush, in a hollow log, under large rocks, or in a cave. Maymont currently has two black vultures, Magnolia, a male, and his offspring Daffodil, a female who hatched at Maymont.

Fun Facts

  • Black vultures will take weak, sick, or unprotected young birds and animals.
  • They prefer carrion that is two to four days old.
  • Black vultures are typically spotted near highways or in open country.
  • They breed in light woodlands and thickets.
  • Black vultures are vocal, making hissing or grunting sounds, but seldom heard.