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American Black Vulture

Coragyps atratus

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56 - 74cm

1.30 - 1.7m

1.2 - 3kg

10 - 16 yrs

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The American black vulture, also known simply as the black vulture, is a widespread bird in the New World vulture family. It is the only living member of the genus Coragyps and is therefore largely unrelated to the Eurasian black vulture. In the United States, it has legal protection under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Least Concern

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LC

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Its plumage is glossy black besides a featherless head and neck with grey, wrinkled skin. Its legs are greyish white ending with flat feet with two long front toes. The wings are broad yet short, with the bases of the primary feathers being white. Its tail is also short and square, barely reaching the edge of its folded wings.

What Does it Look Like?

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What Does it Sound Like?

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American black vultures (as well as other New World vultures) do not possess a syrinx, which is the voice organ used by birds to produce sounds. Because of this, it has very few vocalization capabilities and generally remains completely silent. However, it is able to make hisses and grunts, which it produces when agitated or while feeding.

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It feeds mainly on carrion, which it finds by following other vultures that have a superior sense of smell. It will then aggressively chase even those much larger than itself away from the carcass. It may also scavenge at rubbish dumps or on decomposing plant material and is the only species of New World vulture to prey on cattle.

What Does it Eat?

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Where Does it Nest?

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Between one and three blotched eggs are laid on the ground in a wooded area or a hollow log. Both parents incubate the eggs, which hatch in around a month, and will then feed the nestlings together by regurgitating food at the nest site. The young remain in the nest for two months, and after 80 days they are able to fly.

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Its range spreads from the southern United States through to most of South America as far as Uruguay. It prefers open land interspersed with areas of woods or brush, but can also be found in moist lowland forests, shrublands and grasslands, wetlands and swamps, pastures, and heavily degraded former forests.

Where Does it Live?

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What is its Status?

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Their population is thought to be stable, aided by US law protecting them from persecution. They were once killed by the thousands until the 1970s, but their only modern threats are declining nesting sites and vehicle collisions. Ironically, the increasing availability of roadkill has helped them to continue expanding their range.

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