Coragyps atratus


Common Names: Black vultureAmerican black vulture
Category: Birds
Sub-category: New World Vultures


The black vulture is a fairly large bird of prey, measuring 22 to 29 inches in length, with a 52 to 66 inch 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, 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 black vulture is a scavenger and feeds on carrion, but will also eat eggs or kill newborn animals. In areas populated by humans, it also feeds at garbage dumps. The Black Vulture often defecates on its own legs, using the evaporation of the water in the feces and/or urine to cool itself, a process known as urohidrosis. It cools the blood vessels in the unfeathered tarsi and feet, and causes white uric acid to streak the legs. Because it lacks a syrinx, the Black Vulture has very few vocalization capabilities. It is generally silent, but can make soft hisses and grunts. In the United States, the vulture receives legal protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Edible Notes: May be edible, but not recommended due to it's association and diet of carrion which may spread disease.
Warnings: The black vulture is considered a threat by cattle ranchers due to its predation on newborn cattle. The droppings produced by black vultures and other vultures can harm or kill trees and other vegetation. Over-all though, it is not generally considered a danger to humans.
Sightings