Source: Birds of North America
There are seven species of new world vulture. Black vulture is one of most abundant new world vultures. Black vulture are resident in tropical and warm temperate areas usually found from southern Canada to southern South America. Black vulture is native to Costa Rica. They live up to 10 years on average. Black vulture is a large bird with 5 inches of wing span, it has short tail and powerful wing beat. This species of vulture have dark gray to black bald and wrinkled neck and head. This specie is black overall and had neat white patches underneath the wingtips it can be seen easily while they are soaring in air. The short, squared tipped tail serves as distinctive field mark. The white patches underneath the wings distinguish form turkey vulture which often occur in same area with black vulture. Black vultures are areal scavenger, often associated to turkey vulture: the black vulture lack sense of smell, they flew at high altitude above turkey vulture and keep eye on turkey vulture (they have developed sense of smell) and followed them toward to food. They follow successful Turkey Vultures to carcasses and then aggressively chase them away. Great numbers of Black Vultures quickly gather at large food sources. While feeding, the species is aggressive and frequently chases off other scavengers including Turkey Vultures and crows. They usually feed on carrion of all types and size. The carrion diet include donkeys, raccoon, cattle and large mammals are most common food sources. They also capture live prey, most of which are small mammals and birds. They also prey on eggs, nestling and new born domestic animals.
Black vultures do not make their nest they lay eggs on bare ground in cave, hollow tree, brush piles, hollow logs and abandoned buildings. Pairs usually continue to use one nest site for many years as long as breeding is successful. Black Vultures are monogamous and maintain long term pair bonds. The pair associate closely year round and may feed their young for as many as eight months after fledgling.
According to IUCN the species us least concern. Black vulture were considered as beneficial scavenger in 1800’s. But in early twenty century some people become concerned about vulture spreading disease and they trapped, poisoned and shot vultures until 1970. Black Vulture population decreased from 1940 to 1970 because of the use of DDT in pesticide and as result animals have DDT in their body and it was blue listed in 1972. It was one of major threat that black vulture faced. When Black Vultures consume food containing DDT, the pesticide can accumulate in their fatty tissues, and eventually result in eggshell thinning and reduced reproductive success. From 1970 to 2014 their population has increased. Most population of black vulture are healthy and stable. Black Vultures benefit from human activities, including cattle rearing, fishing, and garbage dumps that provide increased food resources. Black Vultures decline in the areas where the available food supplies have decrease because of increased sanitation measures. Environmental contamination such as lead, mercury and insecticide can poison black vulture. Collisions with cars is another source of mortality. The loss of high quality nest sites also affects the species. Forestry practices that reduce the number of tree cavities force Black Vultures to nest at sites where they are more susceptible to predation.
The species is least concern it does not have major threats. But we can protect it from minor threats it is facing. We should reduce contamination of lead, mercury, pesticides in the environment because lead to decline of black vulture population. Black vulture still face threat of illegal shooting in America, there should be ban on shooting of black vultures. Prevent the loss of high quality nest site, because black vulture nest in tree cavities and cutting tree made their nesting site less available and made them more vulnerable for predation. In the areas where the population of black vulture is abundant made traffic regulation that can reduce collision of black vulture with cars so their population can be stable in those areas.