Black Vulture Species Notes, Development Photos and Case Histories

These large, carrion-eating birds are abundant in the Southeast, where they are often seen soaring on long, broad wings searching for food. Juveniles of these intelligent, highly social birds require a special approach, because research suggests that the young birds must be introduced into the flock by their parents, who protect them and ensure that they are allowed access to communal feeding and roosting activities.13  Most flocks consist of several generations of related birds, and individual birds benefit from scouting activities of others in the group to locate carrion.

Both Black and Turkey Vultures will nest in barns and abandoned structures, as well as the more usual rock shelters, caves and thickets, and the young that we see are most often are separated from their parents because of human interference at the nest site.

Incubation requires 38 to 39 days.  Hatchling Black Vultures start to gain awareness of their surroundings within 2 or 3 days of hatching, and are also extremely adaptable and quick to learn new skills (see Case 1). Since it may take some time to locate an active vulture nest, extreme care has to be taken to keep them from imprinting on humans while awaiting adoption, because of this remarkable precocity.  I strongly recommend using ghost outfits and hand puppets, and housing the young birds in facilities that allow them to be fed and serviced from concealment.   Where only a single bird is being kept, line several of the walls with mirrors to well above (the bird’s) head height, so that the nestling has an opportunity to observe a moving role model.  The young are fed by regurgitation, and hand puppets should be designed to allow the young vulture to reach into the puppet’s “mouth” to receive its food (needless to say, use a washable material).

Vultures are extremely slow to develop, and the young are not ready to fly until almost three months old.  Fledglings are dependant upon parental support and feeding for as much as eight months after fledging.  This prolonged dependency makes it essential to foster young vultures if at all possible.  Fortunately, the long nesting period allows plenty of time to locate a wild nest.   Valuable help in locating an active nest may be obtained from local birders and from  ornithologists at universities in your region.


Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)

Development Photos



Young Nestling


Older Nestling






Case Histories

Case #1

Case #2


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