Black vulture predation may be on the rise as population grows

Reports of vultures, also known as buzzards, preying on cattle and calves are on the rise throughout Texas. As a result, ranchers are searching for methods to combat these pesky birds as their populations and home ranges increase.

Of the  most common vulture species in North America, the familiar red headed turkey vulture rarely preys on live animals. However, the lesser-known black vulture, which has a black head instead of red, may attack and kill calves, lambs, piglets, and other weak animals. Recent studies indicate that the population of black vultures, as well as spread of their range, is on an upward trend.

From the Audubon magazine article “There Goes the Neighborhood,”

“Unlike turkey vultures, black vultures “take live prey on a regular basis,” says Michael Avery, who runs a USDA wildlife research field station outside of Gainesville, Fla. “Their tight social organization might help them subdue and kill larger prey that turkey vultures couldn’t.” They are known to have killed and eaten striped skunks and opossums, hatchling leatherback sea turtles, and young night-herons, and ranchers complain that black vultures prey on newborn sheep and calves.

Black vultures feeding at cow-calf operations could key in on stillborn animals or scavenge birth sites. “We can’t say it never happens,” says Audubon’s Greg Butcher, “but there are no studies that directly address how likely it is that a black vulture will kill and eat a perfectly healthy calf. But this is a very common complaint. It must happen, at least sporadically.” – read more at Audubon magazine….

Large numbers of roosting vultures – of both types – may also lead to structure damage, accumulation of foul biological waste and other annoyances.

So what can ranchers and landowners do?

Vultures are migratory birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, state laws, and regulations, and cannot be killed or captured without the proper permit. But there are ways to discourage vultures from making your place a habit.

Black vultures. Photo © Laura A. Hardesty

Some of those methods, including removing likely roosting spots to hanging decoys and hazing efforts, are explained in the fact sheets available for download at the links below.

Vulture management is complicated and site-specific, so consultation with wildlife professionals is vital to successfully resolving damage situations. For more information about managing vulture damage, contact

Texas Wildlife Services at
USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services at or 866-487-3297

Download the following free vulture fact sheets:

Vulture Damage Management Fact Sheet: