Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)

The Black Vulture is one of the most commonly seen soaring birds in Costa Rica. They glide through warm air currents, congregate in numbers on a tree during the morning while waiting for the formation of those currents. They look for dead animals through their eyes, since their smell sense is not as acute. Due to that, they sometimes follow Turkey Vultures, whose sense of smell is well more advanced. As implied by its name, they are entirely black, with their face and throat bare skinned, which together with their scavenger nature makes for a disgusting reputation. They are admired though for their ability to eat contaminated food, which has been found to be derived from strong stomach acids and resistance to bacteria toxins. This is an important trait, as it enables them to act as recyclers, eating discarded food and turning it into fertalizer for the soil.

“Ugly” is the usual word to describe a vulture, but still they are fascinating creatures. Many have wondered how do they manage to eat rotten meat and still not become sick, and thanks to many studies we are understanding the role of bacteria and other mechanisms in their digestive systems.
I thought this looked close enough to the legend on the “Headless horseman”. Birds in general have this ability that we don’t have to stretch the neck in amazing ways, specially when pruning their feathers.
Black Vulture - Coragyps atratus - Zopilote Negro (1)
The adult shows no feathers or hairs on the head, just bare skin.
Black Vulture - Coragyps atratus - Zopilote Negro (2)
Portrait of a Black Vulture. Note that this juvenile still has some hairs on the head.

2 thoughts on “Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)

  1. Pingback: Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) | Chris Photography

  2. Pingback: Common Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus) | The Nature Admirer

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