Black Vultures: Cleanup Birds

Black Vultures at Carcass
This kind farmer knows what to do with dead animals. You don’t have to dig a hole and bury them, just drag them out to a field and let the vultures take care of them!  In Kentucky, we have two kinds of vultures, the Turkey Vulture with a red head, and the Black Vulture with a black head.

Black Vulture Sunning
They are easy to distinguish when they are close. Black Vultures are compact birds with broad wings, short tails, and powerful wingbeats. Therefore, they have to flap more often than the Turkey Vulture. The Black Vulture has white feathers at the tips of the wings, as this bird models, and the Turkey Vulture’s wings are silver along the entire lower edge. Vultures love to sun themselves, both to warm up in the morning, and to bake off any gunk stuck to their feathers from their latest meal.

Black Vultures Fighting over Carcass
Black Vultures have a well-earned reputation for being aggressive. When livestock deliver their young in the field, Black Vultures will go after the baby. Otherwise, they eat things that are already dead. Of course, they also fight with each other for the tastiest parts of the carcass. Black Vultures aggressively prevent non-relatives from joining them at roosts or following them to food sources. They attack each other by pecking, biting, wing-pummeling, and foot-grappling.

Black Vulture Pair
A Turkey Vulture uses its keen sense of smell to locate food. The Black Vulture just has to follow! Traditionally, they were considered a more southern bird, but their range has spread to the north. Some people think this may result from the Interstate highway system, which provides an unending supply of roadkill!