Black vultures–even just saying the name dredges up negative feelings. Why is that? What makes this bird any less noble than, say, the Osprey, or the Great Blue Heron? It’s not a particularly beautiful bird, but it’s not that ugly! It is because of what they eat? Do we think they are unclean? Is it a built in prejudice, or do we learn it?
I spotted these two, and two others nearby, high atop the light poles by the boat ramp. They aren’t regulars, but I have seen them on more than one occasion, though never feeding. I’m not sure what they go after there.
Here are some background facts about this bird. First, according to Wikipedia, its common name “vulture” is derived from the Latin word vulturus, which means “tearer” and is a reference to its feeding habits. It rarely travels alone, usually traveling in flocks. But a solitary Black Vulture can be intimidated by a Turkey Vulture (the red-headed vultures), at least until backups arrive on the scene. They feed mainly on carrion, but will eat fish, vegetable material and dung, and have also been known to attack small, live prey including newborn calves. The black vulture is monogamous and forms strong social bonds with its kin. They find isolated areas (caves, abandoned buildings, rock piles, etc) to lay their eggs, even staking a place out a couple of weeks ahead of egg-laying to be certain that it is isolated.