Black Vulture

All Vultures in California with Pictures

Get an up-close look at the most common vultures native to California with beautiful visuals and crucial facts. We only sourced information from credible sources and double-checked it all with a certified Ornithologist for accuracy.

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

(Coragyps atratus) is a medium sized bird of prey native to the Americas. It is typically found in open habitats such as grasslands, savannas, coastal areas, and scrub forests. This species has a wingspan of up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) and can reach up to 25 inches (64 cm) in length.

Black Vultures have black plumage with a soft, grey face and white highlights around their eyes. They are distinguishable from Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) by their lack of a red head and the yellowish colored bill. Black California vulture feed on carrion (dead animals), as well as feeding on fruits and scavenging for food. They are rarely seen hunting live prey, but will occasionally take small animals such as rodents or young birds.

In California, Black Vultures can be found along the coasts and in the southern part of the state near the Mexican border. They typically hunt alone or in pairs, although they have been known to form small flocks of up to 10 birds. During the breeding season, they are found in pairs and nest near cliffs or in dense foliage.

Black vultures have also adapted well to human presence, as they can often be seen on roadsides scavenging for food from dumps and other sources of food waste. They can also be seen perched on telephone poles or buildings, surveying for potential prey. As such, they are an important part of the ecosystem by helping to clean up areas and keep scavenger populations in check.

Black vultures are not migratory and live year-round in the same area. This species is not listed as threatened or endangered, but their numbers have declined due to habitat loss and human activity. Conservation efforts are being taken to protect this species and their habitats.

Black Vulture range map

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

(Cathartes aura) is a large bird of prey found throughout California. It has a distinctive bald red head, gray-black body and wings with black tips, and a yellow beak. These vultures typically have a wingspan of up to 6 feet (1.8 m). They feed on carrion such as dead animals, fruits, and insects, as well as some small vertebrates. Turkey Vultures are found in a variety of habitats, including deserts, grasslands, marshes, and forests.

They typically roost in groups on tree branches or cliffs, although they also sometimes nest in abandoned buildings or caves. These birds are highly social and often fly together in groups known as “kettles.” They are known for soaring on thermal air currents, circling in the sky for long periods of time. Turkey Vultures play an important role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem by consuming carrion and preventing disease spread.

These birds have also been known to scavenge food from humans, so it is important that garbage is securely contained and that BBQs are properly cleaned up after use. By doing so, we can help protect these important members of our ecosystem.

Turkey Vulture range map

California Condor

California Condor

(Gymnogyps californianus) is the largest land bird in North America, measuring up to 4 feet tall with a wingspan of over 9 feet. It has distinctive white patches on its wings and a bald head with black feathers.

The California Condor mainly feeds on carrion and can often be found near open areas with large concentrations of dead animals or in caves. It typically inhabits mountainous regions and can often be found at elevations between sea level and 8,500 feet.

The California Condor is a social bird that typically lives in groups of 2 to 10 individuals. It communicates mainly with vocalizations such as honks, cackles, and screams. It usually nests in cliff ledges or caves, with one egg laid each year.

The California Condor is an endangered species due to hunting, lead poisoning from ingestion of bullet fragments in carrion, and habitat loss due to human activities as well as natural disasters. There are currently around 500 individuals left in the wild and over 300 in captivity, with conservation efforts aiming to increase these numbers.

The California Condor is an iconic species of the Southwest and its recovery is important for maintaining a healthy ecosystem in the region. There are many initiatives focusing on habitat protection, captive breeding programs, lead poisoning prevention, and public education about the conservation of this species.

In California, the California Condor Recovery Program is working to reintroduce birds back into their natural habitats and increase population numbers. With the help of conservation efforts, this species may be able to once again have a place in the wild.

The California Condor is an important species of the Southwest and its protection and recovery are essential for maintaining healthy ecosystems in California. With continued efforts, this species can be protected and preserved, ensuring that future generations will be able to appreciate its beauty.

Juvenile condors are released into the wild each year, making conservation efforts all the more important. They are mostly mottled dark brown. By taking action to protect its habitat and reduce threats from human activities, we can help ensure that this species will continue to survive in California for generations to come.

California Condor range map

What types of vultures is in California?

There are two species of vultures present in California: the turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) and the black vulture (Coragyps atratus). The turkey vulture is a large bird of prey, typically with a red-brown head, dark brown to black feathers on its body, and long wings. Its wingspan can range from 4-6 feet. The black vulture is smaller than the turkey vulture, with a wingspan of 2-3 feet. It has dark feathers and a black head.

Both species of vultures are scavengers, feeding primarily on carrion (dead animals). They also feed on eggs and small animals they can find, and sometimes are known to steal food from other birds. They roost together in large communal groups, often nesting on cliffs or in hollow trees.

Is California condor a vulture?

The answer is both yes and no. The California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) is a species of vulture, but it is not the same as the more commonly known Old World vultures. The California condor belongs to its own family, Cathartidae, which also includes New World vultures. So while the California condor is a vulture, it is not the same species as the Old World vultures found in Europe and Africa.

What’s the difference between a Turkey Vulture and a California condor?

Turkey Vultures are scavenging birds that feed primarily on carrion, whereas California condors are large scavenging birds that feed mainly on live prey. Turkey vultures have a more pointed head and wing shape than condors and rely largely on their keen sense of smell to find food sources. They also use thermals to soar and cover larger distances in search of food.

On the other hand, California condors are much heavier and have a more broad wingspan than turkey vultures, allowing them to use their powerful flight muscles to soar and glide for extended periods of time. Their hooked beak is adept at tearing open carcasses and feeding upon large prey such as deer, bighorn sheep and coyotes. They also have strong eyesight that enables them to spot prey from afar.

Additionally, unlike turkey vultures, California condors are listed as critically endangered due to human activity and habitat destruction. As such, conservation efforts are in place to protect these majestic birds from extinction.

How rare is it to see a California condor?

It is very rare to see a California condor in the wild, as only around 500 individuals remain in the world. The species is listed as critically endangered and their total population has decreased by more than 80% since 1982.

The majority of California condors are found in two areas of the US: northern Arizona and southern California. In these areas, they can be seen soaring in the sky or perched on cliff sides. Conservation efforts have been successful and there has been a slow increase in their population over the past few years.

However, they are still extremely rare to see in the wild. To increase the chance of seeing a California condor, visitors can take guided tours to specific locations. These tours are offered by several organizations in Arizona and California, and can provide a unique opportunity to observe these majestic birds.

What’s the difference between vultures and buzzards?

Vultures and buzzards are both scavenging birds, but they belong to different families. Vultures belong to the Cathartidae family while buzzards belong to the Buteo or Accipitridae families. Vultures typically have bald heads and long wingspans, while buzzards have feathered heads and shorter wingspans.

Vultures tend to soar more gracefully, while buzzards usually flap their wings more energetically and have a wider range of flight patterns. Additionally, vultures are found mostly in tropical and subtropical regions, while buzzards may be seen almost anywhere across the world.

Lastly, vultures feed mainly on carrion, while buzzards are not as specialized and also eat small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and insects. Therefore, the key differences between vultures and buzzards are their families, general appearance and behavior in the sky, geographic range, and preferred food sources.

How can you tell a vulture from a condor?

One way to tell the difference between a vulture and a condor is by looking at their size. Vultures are generally smaller than condors, with wingspans ranging from 3-5 feet in length compared to 6-10 feet for condors.

Additionally, vultures have darker feathers than condors and lack the bright colors found on the head and neck of condors. Vultures also tend to have more bare skin on their heads, making them look bald. Condors, on the other hand, have a full set of feathers covering their entire head.

Finally, vultures typically have hooked beaks while condors have a curved bill. When seen in flight, the larger wingspan of condors makes them easily distinguishable from vultures.

Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle

Golden eagles are also large birds of prey and have similar features to condors, including a hooked beak and powerful flight muscles. However, they have distinct differences, such as their distinctive mottled brown plumage with white markings on the tail and broad wings. Additionally, golden eagles have larger feet than condors which enable them to hunt smaller animals such as rabbits and hares.

Golden Eagle range map

Red tailed hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red tailed hawks are also large birds of prey and can be difficult to distinguish from condors. However, red tailed hawks have a brownish-red tail with white barring on the underside, as well as streaked chest feathers and yellow legs and feet. In flight, they have a distinctive flapping pattern that differs from the slow, graceful gliding of condors.

Red-tailed Hawk range map

Andean Condors

Andean Condor

Andean condors are closely related to California condors and can be distinguished by their black feathers with white patches near the wings and head. Additionally, they have a large red-orange comb of feathers on their heads which is absent in California condors. Andean condors also have larger feet than other species of vultures and can reach an impressive wingspan of 10 feet or more.

Andean Condor range map