By Andrew C (Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)) [ CC BY 2.0 ], via  Wikimedia Commons

By Andrew C (Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)

Middle United States to South America.

Length          23-27 inches
Wingspan     54-59 inches
Weight          3.5-5 pounds

Open country with some trees; often near human habitation.

Carrion; preferably 2 to 4 days old.

Vultures are not classified as raptors, but can be mistaken for a soaring hawk or eagle because of their size. Black Vultures, like Turkey Vultures, are able to eat carrion and contaminated meat due to specialized enzymes and bacteria in their digestive systems. Has a poor sense of smell, and often follows the Turkey Vulture to a dead meal. Soars for long periods by following the rising thermals or hot air currents. Soars with a sight dihedral in wings, and rocks as it soars. Very social bird; roosts in flocks of several dozen in one tree. Very useful as one of nature's garbage men. These birds have weak feet, and do not use them for seizing prey. Has a white wing panel on the underside of wings.