2 Types of Vultures in Texas

Last Updated on November 24, 2022 by Lily Aldrin

Texas is home to two of the three vulture species found throughout the United States.

Texas is home to two vulture species—the turkey vulture and the black vulture.

They share certain visual characteristics, yet there are clear distinctions between them.

To help you recognize the difference between the two types of vultures, this page has photos and brief descriptions of each.

ImageName
Turkey VultureTurkey Vulture
Black VultureBlack Vulture

Types of Vultures in Texas

These two species are one of the biggest raptors in Taxes, ranking only behind the golden eagle and the bald eagle in size.

Both are much bigger than a Canada goose in body size and possess equally impressive wingspans.

1. Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Vultures of the turkey kind are common sights in both South and North America. Similar in appearance to turkeys, turkey vultures are easily identified by their large wingspan and leisurely flying patterns.

Appearance

Turkey vulture is an apt moniker because of the bird’s appearance. The gray wingtips, redheads, and black-brown bodies of turkey vultures are reminiscent of their namesake, the vulture, but these birds are much smaller at just 3 pounds and 2.5 feet in height. 

The undersides of their wings are brown and white, and their legs can be either light brown or dark black.

It is not uncommon to see these huge birds, with a wing span of up to 6 feet, swooping low over the landscape in search of rotting carcasses to feast upon. 

Although the turkey vulture’s wingspan is slightly larger than that of the black vulture, its weight is roughly the same at 3 lbs.

Habitat

Turkey’s vultures are roughly as wide as black vultures. You can find them from the eastern United States all the way down to the southern tip of South America. 

Read:  3 Types of Vultures in America

Their winter range expands from the southern United States to the southern Canadian provinces.

It is common for them to nest in large, remote areas with plenty of open space. 

Early in the morning on sunny days is when you’re most likely to spot them congregating on light poles as well as other man-made buildings.

Turkey vultures, like black vultures, prefer open woodlands for roosting and nesting.

When moving through open vegetation or near roads, they are often spotted in the sky. 

They often hang out with black vultures, another species of vulture, to feast on roadkill.

Diet

Turkey vultures, like other vultures, eat dead animals. In contrast to black vultures, however, these birds can only survive on carrion due to the ineffectiveness of their talons. 

They use their headless limbs to butcher animals without risking injury from dropping bones or scraps of flesh on their noggins.

Although turkey vultures may eat just about anything that’s dead, they specialize in eating rodents and other small animals. 

They aren’t picky eaters and will eat just about everything, including reptiles, fish, and even other birds. 

Since they aren’t powerful enough to totally rip the flesh off newly slain prey, they usually wait until a corpse can be dismantled.

Turkey vultures depend heavily on roadkill as a source of food.

2. Black Vulture

Black Vulture

Their common moniker, “black vulture,” is well chosen. This bird’s heavy black and patchy gray plumage and bald black head give it the appearance of an avian Grim Reaper.

White feathers under its wings make it easy to see from above; they look like stars.

Appearance

When in flight, a black vulture’s big, broad wings stay flat and slightly forward-angled.

Their bills are slender and strongly hooked, their heads are small and bald, and their tails are rounded and also quite short. 

Read:  3 Types of Vultures in America

These birds are completely black with the exception of a few white spots or “stars” on the underside of their wingtips, which can be difficult to spot in bright light or when looking from a distance.

Exposed areas of the head’s skin are likewise dark in color.

Their large size in relation to their wing span (up to 5 feet) means they often make use of thermals for flight.

The black vulture can weigh approximately 2.3 kilograms (5.2 pounds) and can be as tall as 28 inches (5 pounds). 

The black vulture is widely regarded as the more hostile of the 2 vulture species, and it has even been witnessed on rare occasions capturing live victims.

Habitat

It is the open sky that the black vulture seeks out for its hunting. They build their nests in large trees in forested areas, such as hickories, sycamores, oaks, pines, junipers, and bald cypress.

The nests of black vultures are almost always concealed in shady alcoves. 

They don’t build nests, instead laying eggs in places like rocky crevices, tree holes, hollow logs, caves, and abandoned building floors.

The state of Texas is home to black vultures, which inhabit both open and wooded areas.

They forage along highways and fields, but they only choose wooded areas for nesting and roosting. 

Near large cities in southern Texas, such as Houston and Dallas, black vultures are a common sight.

Word on the street has it that black vultures are a native species. Many people don’t realize that you can find this species all the way up to Ohio and even New England, where it’s not as common as it is in the south. 

As far south as Chile and Uruguay across South America and as far north as the coastlines of New York City and the northeastern United States, you may see these birds in the sky.

Read:  3 Types of Vultures in America

Diet

Typical of vultures, black vultures feast on dead animals. Like several other vultures in the Old World, they use both sight and smell to find dead animals.

When feeding, they often congregate in large numbers and may swiftly devour a corpse. 

The black vulture primarily feeds on dead animals and humans that are just a few days old.

As with other vultures, they are able to digest decaying meat because of the presence of specialized bacterial colonies in their digestive systems.

Black vultures, unlike most other vultures, are sometimes seen killing animals for food. Animals like skunks, opossums, and newborn mammals like calves, piglets, and lambs are fair game for these predators.

Conclusion

Of the 23 vulture species worldwide, two may be found in Texas.

Take your camera and go outside if you’re interested in learning more about these apex predators.

If you read this text carefully, you should be able to recognize these vultures.

Please notify us in the comments if you see any.

FAQ

When vultures are present, what does it imply?

Carcasses serve as attractive bait for vultures. You may assume there is a dead animal in the area if you see any. First, you should look around to see whether there is a dead animal nearby.

Why do I have vultures circling over my house?

Vultures can be resting or scouting from your roof. Potentially, they have spotted a food supply and are now poised to pounce.

A flock of vultures keeps swooping down on my roof—what gives?

If the vultures aren’t actively hunting, they’re either waiting for a dangerous predator to complete its meal. Plus, they might be engaging in some kind of intra-group competition.

About Lily Aldrin

I am Lily Aldrin. I attended Cornell University, where I obtained my degree to become an Ornithologist so I could pursue my love of these magnificent creatures in and out of their natural habitats.