Black Vultures: Clever Carrion-eaters and Hunters

Black Vulture

Although Black vultures feed on carrion, they also hunt slow, injured, or newly-born animals.

I once  saw three vultures surround a large pond turtle, which strayed too far from the water. First they ripped off its legs, and then they devoured the body.

I’ve also seen them loiter around a doe and her newly-born fawn, trying again and again to separate mother from baby.

Black Vultures frequent Florida zoos, where they snatch pieces of meat from feeding bowls and harass resident animals with new young.

When I visited Florida’s Jacksonville Zoo in 2017, a pair of  Wattled Cranes were fostering a chick from a neighboring facility. Vultures swarmed the enclosure and, for many days, attempted to snatch the infant bird. The new parents guarded their charge zealously, and used their stabbing bills to drive the intruders away. To the disappointment of the vultures, the chick was successfully raised.

Wattled Crane

At Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo (Gainesville, FL), where I studied Zoo Animal Technology, a pair of injured Black Vultures wandered the grounds as they pleased. When we brought them dead rats and mice, we found a collection of nearly-identical birds awaiting the meal. It was hard to discern which birds were ours, since the visitors learned to impersonate residents by limping or drooping a wing.

There are two vulture species in Florida, the Black Vulture and the Turkey Vulture. The Turkey Vulture has a red head, while the Black Vulture has a black head. To identify the birds in flight, look at the underwing. The Turkey Vulture’s wing is half black and half white (or gray). The underwing of the Black Vulture is all black, with a white or gray splotch at the wingtip.

Turkey Vulture

Photo of Wattled Crane by bernswaelz with Pixabay
Photo of Turkey Vulture by Wenzhu645 with Pixabay

Published by cafsamsel

Carol Fullerton-Samsel is a nearly-native Floridian who lives with her husband of 25 years and three rescue animals. She is a [mostly] vegan, alcohol-free, [relatively] caffeine-free, Buddhist writer and day-hiker. Her novel, The Clones of Langston, was a Reader’s Favorite medalist and a New Century Writer Awards finalist. It tells the story of cloned workers who are abandoned to form their own society. As the facility housing them erodes, they discover a challenging new world—our own.

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