Black vulture
Coragyps atratus
ITIS Species Code:   175272         NatureServ Element Code:   ABNKA01010
NatureServe Global Rank: 
NatureServe State (NC) Rank: 
Federal Status: 
NC State Status: 
Southern Blue Ridge:  11 Southern Piedmont:  11 South Atl. Coastal Plain:  12
Land Unit

US Fish & Wildlife Service
US Forest Service
US National Park Service
US Department of Defense
NC State Parks
NC University System
NC Wildlife Res. Com.
NC Forest Service
NC Div. of Coastal Mgmt.
Local Governments
Non-Governmental Org.
Other Public Lands
Private Lands

GAP Status 1-2
All Protected Lands




% of Dist. on
Prot. Lands

10.9 %
14.2 %
40.7 %
4.7 %
3.8 %
2.5 %
15.6 %
2.3 %
0.8 %
2.5 %
2.5 %
1.3 %
< 0.1 %

29.2 %
% of Dist. on
All Lands

0.4 %
0.5 %
1.6 %
0.2 %
0.1 %
< 0.1 %
0.6 %
< 0.1 %
< 0.1 %
< 0.1 %
< 0.1 %
< 0.1 %
96.1 %

1.1 %
The Black Vulture is common in the coastal plain, uncommon to locally common in the piedmont, and rare to absent in the mountains. (Hamel 1992)

Prefer rural areas, especially remote, swampy areas and particularly wooded farmlands. Soars over many different types of habitats while foraging, but Palmer (1988) states they 'feed primarily in more open areas.' Hamel (1992) maintains 'no essential habitat requirements' for foraging, but normally not found in 'rugged mountainous areas.' Nesting site is typically in remote location, usually in the dense woodland (Palmer 1988). Roosts are also located in forested areas (Kaufman1996) and abandoned buildings (Palmer 1988).

The Black Vulture does not build a nest (Ehrlich et al 1988), but the site where the eggs are laid is usually sheltered and dark (Palmer 1988). Nicholson (1997) lists laying sites as having included: crevices among rocks on the ground, under rock ledges, in caves, and in standing hollow trees. If laying site is in a hollow tree or stump it is usually no higher than 15 feet above the ground (Brown and Amadon 1968). Thickets in vegetation (Hamel 1992) and sometimes in abandoned buildings (Kaufman 1996) are also used for laying sites. Bent (1937) states the Black vultures generally forages in more open areas such as fields, dump heaps and sewers, but also can be found forests or anywhere 'animals have come to untimely ends.'


Nearly ubiquitous except in heavily forested regions; more common in lowland than in highland habitats. More abundant toward the coast in eastern North America. Most abundant around human habitation in much of Central and South American range (Palmer 1988).

In Pennsylvania, selected large conifers for mid-winter roost (Wright et al. 1986).

Eggs are laid usually in a thicket or on a cliff ledge, also in cave or other situations (e.g., on bare ground at bottom of stump, in hollow log or tree, among rocks, etc.) (Jackson 1983); also sometimes in high buildings (Lima, Peru) (Palmer 1988). In Maryland/Pennsylvania, nested in areas that were roadless, forested, and undeveloped (Coleman and Fraser 1989).


Prefer rural areas, especially remote, swampy areas and particularly wooded farmlands. Adaptable.

Occupied Landcover Map Units:
Code NameDescription NC Natural Heritage Program Equivalent
3 Tidal Marsh Fresh and brackish tidal marshes, including cord grass, wild rice, sawgrass and needlerush alliances. Brackish Marsh, Interdune pond, Maritime wet grassland
124 Maritime Scrubs and Tidal Shrublands Coastal shrubs including wax-myrtle, swamp rose, alder, yaupon, and greenbriar. Maritime Shrubs, Salt Shrub
375 Hypersaline coastal salt flats Tidal flats within salt marshes, including saltmeadow cordgrass or sea-purslane dominated alliances. Salt Marsh
372 Interdune Herbaceous Wetlands Dune swales with permanently flooded to intermittently exposed hydrology. Species composition depends on salinity and can include cut grass, spike-rush, mosquito fern, and hornwort. Interdune Pond, Maritime Wet Grasslands
371 Maritime Grasslands Dune grass community consisting of sea oats and beach grasses. Dune grass, Maritime dry grassland
67 Wet Longleaf or Slash Pine Savanna Wet flatwoods and pine savannas, typically dominated by longleaf pines, but slash or pond pines may be the dominant pines. Wet Pine Flatwoods
97 Mesic Longleaf Pine Longleaf pine woodlands without a major scrub oak component. Slash or loblolly pines may be present as well. Mesic Pine Flatwoods
42 Xeric Longleaf Pine Sandhills including a range of longleaf pine density from predominantly wiregrass, scrub oak dominated to true longleaf pine woodland. This does not include mesic or saturated flatwood types. Xeric Sandhill Scrub, Pine/Scrub Oak Sandhill, Coastal Fringe Sandhill
46 Xeric Oak - Pine Forests Mixed forest dominated by yellow pines with white or northern red oaks co-dominating. Pine Oak Heath
232 Xeric Pine-Hardwood Woodlands and Forests Mixed forest dominated by yellow pines with drier oaks including southern red, post, and chestnut oaks. Dry Oak Hickory Forest
226 Piedmont Xeric Woodlands Generally post and blackjack oak dominated woodlands. White ash and pignut hickory can be found in combination with Eastern red cedar on glades. Xeric Hardpan Forest
20 Coniferous Regeneration Regenerating pine stands. Predominantly loblolly pine, but slash and longleaf stands occur as well. No equivalent
36 Successional Deciduous Forests Regenerating deciduous trees with a shrub stature. Commonly dominated by sweetgum, tulip poplars and maples. No equivalent
180 Agricultural Crop Fields Farm fields used for row crops. No equivalent
205 Agricultural Pasture/Hay and Natural Herbaceous Farm fields used for pasture grass or hay production, as well as old fields dominated by native and exotic grasses. No equivalent
213 Barren; quarries, strip mines, and gravel pits Quarries, strip mines, or gravel pits. No equivalent
214 Barren; bare rock and sand Areas of bare rock, sand or clay. No equivalent
60 Sand Exposed sand, predominantly in the sandhills region where disturbance or the extreme site conditions prevent natural regeneration. No equivalent
202 Residential Urban Includes vegetation interspersed in residential areas. Includes lawns, mixed species woodlots, and horticultural shrubs. Vegetation accounts for between 20 - 70% of the cover. No equivalent
203 Urban Low-Intensity Developed Highly developed areas with vegetation accounting for < 20% of the cover. No equivalent
204 Urban High-Intensity Developed and Transportation Corridors Highly developed areas including infrastructure such as roads, railroads. Vegetation represents < 20% of the cover. No equivalent
523 Grassy Bald High Elevation grassy balds including Pennsylvania sedge, mountain oatgrass, as well as shrubby areas dominated by Alleghany and smooth blackberry. Grassy Bald
524 Shrub Bald Variable phenologies, predominantly evergreen balds with rhododendon and Mountain laurels. Deciduous shrubs including green alder and Alleghany and smooth blackberry are included as well. Red Oak - Chestnut Oak Woodlands may be included in cases where the density of the woodland species is low and the shrub component is dense. Heath Bald
533 Appalachian Swamp Forest Evergreen and deciduous forests with saturated hydrologies. This class may contain a variety of trees species, including hemlock - red maple, pitch pine, and white pine forests. Swamp Forest-Bog Complex, Southern Appalachian Bog, Southern Appalachian Fen
534 Appalachian Wet Shrubland/ Herbaceous Saturated shrubs and herbaceous vegetation. Often mapped as an inclusion in Appalachian Swamp Forest. Southern Appalachian Bog, Southern Appalachian Fen
535 Talus/Outcrops/Cliffs Includes seep talus slopes with sparce vegetation, as well as outcrops including, granitic outcrops. Some outcrops will have been mapped as barren rock. No equivalent
View Entire Landcover Legend
Additional Spatial Constraints:
Exclude all area outside of known range.
Bent, A.C. 1937. Life histories of North American birds of prey. Part 1. Bull. U.S. Natl. Mus. 137. 409 pp.

Ehrlich, P.R., D.S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1992. Birds in jeopardy:the imperiled and extinct birds of the United States and Canada, including Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. 259 pp.

Hamel, P. B. 1992. The land manager's guide to the birds of the south. The Nature Conservancy, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 367 pp + several appendices.

Kaufman K. 1996. Lives of North American Birds. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Nicholson CP. 1997. Atlas of the breeding birds of Tennessee. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.

Coleman, J. S., and J. D. Fraser. 1989. Habitat use and home ranges of black and turkey vultures. J. Wildl. Manage. 53:782-792.

Jackson, J. A. 1983. Nesting phenology, nest site selection, and reproductive success of black and turkey vultures. Pages 245-270 in Wilbur, S. R., and J. A. Jackson,eds. Vulture biology and management. Univ. Calif. Press.

Brown, L. and D. Amadon. 1968. Eagles, Hawks, and Falcons of the World. McGraw-Hill, NY.

Wallace, M. P., and S. A. Temple. 1983. An evaluation of techniques for releasing hand-reared vultures to the wild. Pp. 400-423 in Wilbur, S. R., and J. A. Jackson, eds. Vulture biology and management. Univ. California Press.

Wilbur, S. R. 1983. The status of vultures in the western hemisphere. Pages 113-123 in Wilbur, S. R., and J. A. Jackson, eds. Vulture biology and management. Univ. California Press, Berkeley.

Harrison, H.H. 1979. A field guide to western birds' nests. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 279 pp.

Terres, J.K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU), Committee on Classification and Nomenclature. 1983. Check-list of North American Birds. Sixth Edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas.

National Geographic Society (NGS). 1983. Field guide to the birds of North America. National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C.

Wilbur, S. R., and J. A. Jackson, eds. 1983. Vulture biology and management. Univ. California Press, Berkeley. xxii + 550 pp.

Rabenold, P. P. 1986. Family associations in communally roosting black vultures. Auk 103:32-41.

Wright, A. L., R. H. Yahner, and G. L. Storm. 1986. Roost-tree characterisitics and abundance of wintering vultures at a communal roost in south central Pennsylvania. Raptor Research 20(3/4):102-107.

Coleman, J. S., and J. D. Fraser. 1987. Food habits of black and turkey vultures in Pennsylvania and Maryland. J. Wildl. Manage. 51:733-739.

Pendleton, B. A. Giron, et al. 1987. Raptor management techniques manual. National Wildlife Federation, Sci. and Tech. Ser. No. 10. 420 pp.

Ehrlich, P.R., D.S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder's handbook:a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Shuster, Inc., New York. xxx + 785 pp.

Palmer, R. S., editor. 1988. Handbook of North American birds. Vol. 4. [Diurnal raptors, part 1]. Yale University Press, New Haven. vii + 433 pp.

Root, T. 1988. Atlas of wintering North American birds:An analysis of Christmas Bird Count data. University of Chicago Press. 336 pp.

Stiles, F.G., and A.F. Skutch. 1989. A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. Comstock Publ. Associates, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York. 511 pp.

10 March 2005
This data was compiled and/or developed by the North Carolina GAP Analysis Project.

For more information please contact them at:
NC-GAP Analysis Project
Dept. of Zoology, NCSU
Campus Box 7617
Raleigh, NC 27695-7617
(919) 513-2853