Banner Vulture C Cathy Hoyt

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 black 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.

Coragyps atratus



Carrion, mammals, young birds

3.5-5 lbs, 2 ft tall, 4.5-5 ft wingspan

Grasslands, deserts, urban and rural areas of the southeastern U.S. to Central and South America

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 are seldom heard.
  • The lack of feathers on a black vulture’s head is for cleanliness; fewer feathers mean black vultures spend less time and energy on preening.
  • Black vultures use their vision to find food, while turkey vultures rely on their sense of smell.
  • Maymont is home to a black vulture. She was born here at Maymont but was raised off-site for 6 months and then brought back to live at Maymont.
  • Black vultures live 5-10 years in the wild and up to 25 years in captivity.

Adopt an Animal

Did you know it takes $500,000 each year to feed and care for the animals at Maymont? Your support of the Maymont Adopt an Animal Program helps provide food, care and enrichment to keep the rescued animals active, healthy and engaged.