8 Interesting Facts About The Black Vulture

The Black Vulture has little to boast about, even when compared to the Turkey Vulture. With their white tipped wings they seem a little classier than the lowly Turkey Vulture, but like the Turkey Vulture you don’t want to get close enough for a look at that face. Shudder! Vultures are amazing and beautiful when flying, but – oh my gosh – that face!

Ugly and interesting. That is my impression of the Black Vulture. I have been reading and learning more, which includes the following:

  • The Black Vulture finds its meals either by using its keen eyesight or by following other (New World) vultures, which possess a keen sense of smell.
  • The Black Vulture occasionally feeds on livestock or deer. It is the only species of New World vulture which preys on cattle. It occasionally harasses cows which are giving birth, but primarily preys on newborn calves. In its first few weeks, a calf will allow vultures to approach it. The vultures swarm the calf in a group, then peck at the calf’s eyes, or at the nose or the tongue. The calf then goes into shock and is killed by the vultures
  • The Black Vulture lacks a syrinx—the vocal organ of birds—its only vocalizations are grunts or low hisses
  • The Black Vulture’s nostrils are not divided by a septum, but rather are perforate; from the side one can see through the beak
  • The Black Vulture is known to regurgitate when approached or disturbed, which assists in predator deterrence and taking flight by decreasing its takeoff weight
  • Like all New World Vultures, 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
  • Like the Turkey Vulture, the Black Vulture is often seen standing in a spread-winged stance. The stance is believed to serve multiple functions: drying the wings, warming the body, and baking off bacteria.
  • Black Vulture 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.

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