Black vultures increasing in Pennsylvania

07 18 Black Vultures
(Emilie Chen/Flickr)

Vultures in Pennsylvania are usually a welcomed sight. With turkey vultures, and their red heads that resemble a wild turkey, being the main species of this carrion-consuming bird within the state, their ability to clean up roadkills and just about any other decaying matter, has been both an environmental and eye-sore-reducing benefit to people and the outdoor world.

There is, however, another species of vulture that is increasing its presence in Pennsylvania, and that is the black vulture.

With a bald black head — baldness in all vultures equates with an easy cleaning of carrion around the head — and about the same size as a turkey vulture, they are easy to identify.

One would think that an increase of Coragyps Atratus — their genus, also known as New World vultures — in any area would be a positive addition to help the environment where the clearing of dead creatures is welcomed. Turns out, that’s not fully the case with black vultures.

Without the scenting ability of turkey vultures, they are basically visual hunters. This means they are primarily high gliders, seeking carrion with their eyes. Often times they will spot turkey vultures already feeding on carrion, and then descend to that spot. Being more aggressive than the turkey vulture, they simply chase those birds away and feed themselves.

There is also another concern with black vultures. It has been documented that the black vulture will kill a living animal. They have been known to pick out the eyes and begin the feeding of live newborn calves, lamb’s and domestic goats. They also kill and feed on small wild living creatures, and are confirmed egg eaters.

On the alternative side of this concerning trait, are people in the animal-study arena who say the birds are merely taking sickened animals who would die anyway because ofsome sort of natural disease.

It may be worth mentioning that some states have issued permits for farmers and others to kill a limited number of these birds.

Being a bird of the southeastern United States, and Central and South America, they had never really been seen in Pennsylvania until a decade ago, but they are certainly visible in the state nowadays.

The reasons for their expansion north are not certain. Some claim a warming earth has pushed them northward. Others say it is simply an increase in food availability, pointing to Pennsylvania’s high number of road-killed deer as an excellent example of a stable food source.

Debating what factor has swollen their range seems pointless, because the truth remains that they are here. Whether these ground-nesting birds — an unusual trait for big birds — are viewed favorably or with disdain in this state remains to be seen. But if you have yet to spot one as of now, be prepared to see one soon, because they are ever increasing.

Categories: Pennsylvania – Ron Steffe

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