On a recent visit to a park in south Dallas, I spotted two black birds cooling themselves among the geese and ducks who had gathered at a pond. Upon closer examination and looking through pictures online, I quickly determined they were vultures. The first thought that came to my mind was, are they here to feast on the ducks or, just like me, wanting to find a cool place to relax from the heat? The vultures spread and flapped their wings as if trying to cool themselves off. Somebody told me later that they may have been getting the dust and debris from a recent feeding from their wings. I am not sure what is true, but it did heighten my curiosity about vultures found in Texas.
My research revealed two types of vultures in our area: the Texas vulture and the Black vulture. Here is what I learned about the Black vulture
Black Vultures primarily eat carrion, but unlike most other vultures, they are known to kill animals to feed on fresh meat. It’s not uncommon for them to prey on living skunks, opossums, and livestock, such as baby pigs, calves, and lambs.
These birds get their name because their entire body is covered in black feathers and a bald head that features black skin. But as they are soaring, you can see silver feathers on the underside of their wings.
It’s easy to tell a Black Vulture and Turkey Vulture apart
Just remember that Black Vultures have black-colored heads and are short and compact, where Turkey Vultures have red-colored heads and are longer and lankier. If they are soaring above you, Black Vultures will display silvery wingtips. Turkey Vultures have gray feathers covering most of the underside of their wings, and they also fly with their wings slightly raised, which resembles the letter “V.”
Black Vultures are monogamous and will stay with their mate for many years.
The loyal pair are excellent parents and will defend their nest, eggs, and young vigorously. Interestingly, these vultures build their nests on the ground in stumps, caves, thickets, brush piles, or hollow trees. No nesting material is used either!
Baby vultures are fed by their parents for up to 8 months, and the entire family develops strong bonds. Large communal roosts are common, where relatives can gather to meet up, and unrelated vultures are aggressively chased off.
Look for Black Vultures in Texas in both forested and open areas. They prefer to roost and nest in dense forests but forage for food along roads, fields, and other open spaces.
Black Vultures are commonly seen hanging around Turkey Vultures, and it’s not because they are best friends. Between the two species, Turkey Vultures have a MUCH better sense of smell. Black Vultures use this fact to their advantage and follow Turkey Vultures to a carcass. And many times, the more aggressive Black Vultures will chase away their vulture cousins to have the food all to themselves. I wonder if Turkey Vultures ever feel used? 🙂
Like most vultures, these birds are mostly silent. The only noises you may hear are grunting and hissing. Trust me; you won’t be hearing any lyrical tunes from these birds!