Culture Vulture: Regurgitation

Negative connotations associated with vultures, all species alike, have resulted in many misconceptions of this much maligned breed of bird. Vultures can be classified into two different categories, namely the Old World Vultures whichlocate their prey exclusively by sight and the New World Vultures who are able to locate their prey by their keen sense of smell.

The Black Vulture also commonly known as American Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) is a New World Vulture. As the name ‘American’ suggests, it is usually found in the regions of North and South America like Southern parts of United States of America andcountries like Chile and Uruguay in South America, in a vast array of habitats. The common feature of the Black Vulture would be its featherless head and neck, to prevent unwanted bacteria from getting caught in the feathers while feeding on carcasses that might prove harmful to the well-being of the vulture.

What may seem disgusting to us humans, regurgitation has proved useful in the daily life of a Black Vulture. The many uses of the regurgitation of the Black vulture include feeding of their young, at least until the later stages where solid food will actually be used. (Stewart, 1974))Also, the regurgitation can be used for prey defense. The Black Vulture might seem like your average majestic birds of prey due their large wingspans that might stretch up to 1.5m. However, in the event of any attack by predators, Black Vultures will actually regurgitate to fend off their attacks. (Coleman and Fraser, 1986) That doesn’t sound too majestic for such a huge bird of prey but the regurgitation serves more of deterrence, rather to actually attack. To top it off, regurgitation is also used to allow easier flight for the Black Vultures for being heavy hinders them from reaching greater altitudes due to the excess baggage.

Well, if you ever once thought that regurgitation or more commonly known as vomit, serves no practical purpose, think Black Vulture!


“American Black Vulture” by Ben Osborne. BBC Wildlife Finder. URL: (accessed on 5 April 2010)

Paul A.Stewart, “A Nesting of Black Vultures,” The Auk, 91(3), (1974): 595-600

Coleman,John S., and Fraser, James D, “Predation on Black and Turkey Vultures,” The Wilson Bulletin, 98(4) (1986):600-601

“Black Vulture Nestcam #7: Attack of the Crows” by BVCFMallorca. Youtube Channel,04 June 2007. URL: (accessed on 5 April 2010)

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