Vultures Native to Florida

Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images

As carrion-eaters, vultures are sometimes thought of as spooky or creepy, and are considered omens of death, but there's a lot more to these creatures than their reputations. Florida has two native vulture species: black and turkey vultures. Although they have some similarities, there are plenty of differences that distinguish the two.

Appearance

Although you might confuse the two at first glance, black and turkey vultures look quite different on closer inspection. Black vultures have pure black feathers, apart from small white patches on the underside of their wingtips, and a black, featherless head and neck. They measure roughly 23 to 26 inches and weigh 4 to 5 pounds. Turkey vultures have either black or dark brown feathers, but their featherless heads and necks have pink skin. They measure between 25 and 32 inches and weigh up to 6 pounds.

Feeding

Both black and turkey vultures are carrion-eaters, which means they feed on the bodies of creatures already dead. Turkey vultures have an excellent sense of smell and use it to seek out their dinner. Black vultures don't have this adaptation, and find their meals by sight alone. Turkey vultures prefer to feed by themselves, whereas their black cousins feed in groups. As such, a group of black vultures can easily scare a single turkey vulture away from a carcass.

Habitat

Black vultures roost in tall trees, so they prefer to live in forested or wooded areas, although they like to be near open ground to look for food. However, they can sometimes be found in suburban areas, where they may even roost on electrical pylons. Turkey vultures prefer open areas, such as farmland, rangeland or sparse woodland. They can often be spotted along roadsides or near landfills. They roost in trees, on rocks or in other tall and secluded areas.

Breeding

Black vultures are monogamous and stick close to their mates all year round, for many years. They don't build nests, rather laying their eggs directly on the ground. However, they choose their nesting sites carefully, preferring areas such as caves, hollow trees, thickets or even abandoned buildings. Turkey vultures don't build full nests, but will dig out a hollow to lay their eggs in, and may arrange vegetation around it to make it more secure. They like to nest in areas that are cooler than the rest of their surroundings and are far away from humans, such as in caves or rock crevices.

    Photo Credits

    • Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images