Vulture Biology

Identification | Biology | Damage ID | Management | Handling


North American vultures typically reach sexual maturity in 3 to 5 years. Both species, turkey and black vultures, usually lay 2 eggs per clutch and 1 clutch per year. Eggs hatch in about 40 days. Young are cared for by both adults for about 3 months. Black vultures mate in thinly wooded areas with thickets. Vultures keep the same mate each breeding season unless 1 of the pair dies.  

Nesting Cover 

Vultures do not build nests, but lay their eggs in dense thickets, hollow logs, caves, abandoned buildings, and on rock ledges. Turkey vultures often nest in abandoned barns and warehouses. 


Vultures congregate in large communal roosts, typically located in wooded hollows or ravines with drainage into lakes or rivers. Occasionally, vultures roost in backyard trees, on billboards, suburban rooftops, and water, electrical, radio, and microwave towers. Roosts are used throughout the year but have the largest numbers during the late autumn through early spring. Roosts are dynamic and vultures may use different roost sites each night. Turkey vultures and black vultures may roost together. Turkey vultures migrate north in spring and south in fall. Black vultures tend to remain in the southern portion of the US.  


Turkey vultures can be found in almost any habitat, from coasts to deserts to plains. Turkey vultures especially are adapted to forage in wooded areas. Both species thrive in areas with open fields.  

Food Habits 

Vultures are scavengers. They feed on carrion, roadkill, and remains of animals left by predators. Vultures have keen eyesight that they use to locate food. Turkey vultures can find food by smell, but black vultures lack a developed sense of smell. Vultures have strong bills for pulling and tearing but relatively weak feet, so they cannot lift or carry much weight. Although vultures occasionally prey on domestic fowl and livestock, they primarily feed on carrion and specialize in scavenging carcasses. They may kill and consume vulnerable newborn livestock in open pastures.