Black Vultures or Buzzards

​By Dylan Till -
Public Works Environmental & Operations Manager

Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus) are large birds of prey. They are a species of New World vultures that only exist in North and South America. Only three species of New World vultures are present in the United States. These species are Black Vultures, Turkey Vultures, and the California Condor. On Skidaway Island, only Black Vultures and Turkey Vultures are present. Black Vultures and Turkey Vultures are collectively referred to as buzzards in the Southeastern United States.

Black Vultures are, as the name suggests, are predominantly black-colored birds. They have black, bare, featherless heads, black bodies, and mostly black wings with white wing tips. They are predominantly scavengers, mainly feeding on carrion. Those in more urban settings also will scavenge dumpsters or landfills. They search for food while soaring and have excellent eyesight but a poor sense of smell. To find carcasses more efficiently, they often will follow Turkey Vultures, which have an excellent sense of smell, to carcass sites. Vultures play an important role in the ecosystem as beneficial scavengers, cleaning up carcasses that otherwise would be left to rot or slowly broken down by maggots and microorganisms. 

Black Vultures are monogamous; generally staying with mates for several years or even for life and interacting year-round, not just during mating season. They aren’t nest builders and usually lay eggs on the ground in a thicket, hollow log, or similar covered area. Clutch size generally is one-to-three eggs; once hatched, both parents help feed the young. The young depend on their parents for as long as eight months after fledging. Black Vultures maintain strong social bonds with family members and communally roost in large flocks. 

Black Vultures are rated as a species of Least Concern by The International Union of Conservation Nature. They are protected under federal law by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. It is illegal to kill, capture, sell, trade, and transport Black Vultures or parts of Black Vultures. While Black Vultures are not facing species-wide threats, they face challenges, especially in a more urban environment such as The Landings. They are susceptible to accidental poisoning from fertilizers/lead/rodenticides, vehicular collisions (due to feeding on road-killed carcasses), wildlife diseases (such as avian influenza), and lightning strikes while roosting. 

Recently several Black Vultures have been reported dead within the Midpoint section of the community. In those cases, the carcasses’ condition was beyond what would be helpful for a necropsy (autopsy but for non-human species), and therefore cause of death was not determined. After speaking with our contracted USDA biologist, a representative of Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources, and a representative of The Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS) an action plan for successful sampling was planned in case any additional carcasses are discovered. 

If you have a specific concern related to Black Vultures or other wildlife-related issues, please report the problem by calling the Public Works Office (912-598-5506). You also can report the issue via SeeClickFix on TLA’s website ( or use TLA’s app to submit a SeeClickFix request. 


This article was originally published by The Landings Association on their website.

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