Black Vultures are a large, dark bird with a naked black head. They are slightly smaller with shorter wings than a turkey vulture’s and only the tips are silvery rather than the whole wings.
Black Vultures are highly social and will roost and migrate in large groups. Often seen following turkey vultures to carcasses, they will wait until the larger species has finished eating before diving in. They are generally not shy when it comes to humans or their structures and can often be seen warming up, cooling off, and generally loitering on tall buildings or utility poles. They enjoy the smell of oil based rubbers and will eat weatherproofing strips right off of cars or windows.
Black Vultures are primarily scavengers and eat carrion. This can include both freshly dead animals and decomposing animals. They also frequent landfills. The extreme acidity of their digestive system helps break down diseases and parasites they ingest from their diet of rotting meat. Unlike their cousins, the Turkey Vultures, Black Vultures do not have a good sense of smell to help them find their food. Black Vultures can be quite predatory, killing and eating small mammals and working together to harass newborn calves and lambs away from their parents and then killing and eating them.
Outside of the breeding season, Black Vultures will roost in large groups on any open area. They appreciate tall buildings and poles in urban areas especially along roads. Open areas and broken forest areas, farmland, and other areas that promote soaring flight while searching for food. Black Vultures are native to the US and protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.
Black Vultures prefer to nest in rock crevices, abandoned heron nests, overhangs, ledges, animal burrows or small caves, be they natural or man-made. Pairs are monogamous, have their own nesting territory, and may use the same nesting spot sometimes for decades. While they are very comfortable loitering and feeding in urban areas close to humans, they prefer to nest in more secluded areas.
Black Vultures are mostly resident in their area. If they migrate, it is usually only short distances further south to find food.
ISSUES CAUSED BY BLACK VULTURES:
- Predation on young livestock
- Droppings are very acidic and quickly cause damage to structures
- Droppings rapidly create a large and foul mess on structures and properties
- Black Vultures have been known to actively seek out and pull out rubber seals around windows and grout between tiles
- Scratching and pulling out weather stripping on vehicles and boats
- Their soaring flight and preference for open areas causes risk for bird strikes with aircraft
HOW TO MANAGE ISSUES WITH BLACK VULTURES
- Exclude vultures from livestock pastures and pens around birthing time using lasers
- Exclude vultures from loitering by blocking off perching areas
- Structural deterrents to make loitering areas uncomfortable or unwelcoming to vultures
- Harassment of vultures with canines or lasers
Sources: The Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology bird guide, Humane Society of the United States, Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management, Nest Watch