Black Vulture in Maine

Black Vulture on Tower

Turkey Vultures are a common three season sight in Maine and in the summer there always seems to one or two patrolling the skies.  They are one of the first migrating birds to return each spring (actually late winter) and one of the last to leave as the weather gets cold.  This past winter we even had one winter over near our house in Wiscasset.

Turkey Vultures on Tower

But it wasn’t always that way.  Between 1862 and 1944 there were only twelve reported sightings of Turkey Vultures in the state.  Fifty years ago (when I was a youth) they were still rare.

Their close cousin, the Black Vulture is a year round resident from New Jersey south to Florida and west to Texas but is as rare in Maine as the Turkey Vulture was a hundred years ago.

Ingrid and I have gotten into a habit of glancing at every vulture we see . . . hoping to see white tips on the wings and a gray head . . . the tell-tale sign of a Black Vulture.

Black Vulture in Flight

Today, I was up early (along with a number of other birders), prowling the pine trees and communication towers of Windham . . . looking for the Black Vulture that had been seen yesterday at sunset.

We found two, and they appeared to be rubbing bills . . . could this be the first breeding Black Vultures in Maine?

The Black Vulture is Maine Big Year Bird # 144.


  1. By Phyllis Koenig -

    I chanced on your website while searching for “black vultures in Maine”, after seeing a New York Times article on black vultures– a bird that was new to me, but seemed to explain an unusual bird sighting that my husband and I had last month (i.e., August) while biking in and around Acadia National Park.
    We witnessed a large group (dozen or so) of very active large black birds, flying around, aggressively bickering/tussling with each other, etc. in a rural back yard with large trees, one early evening as we biked by. They were very black, too large and too small-headed to be crows or ravens, but they lacked the red-skinned heads of turkey vultures. A few ( maybe just two?) looked larger than the rest, so I’m guessing this was a family with nearly-grown youngsters. They had that hawkish-raptor look when they flew. We watched, fascinated– and I had not been able to find a likely identification until now.
    Maybe they’re becoming less rare in Maine– along with grey squirrels, which we NEVER saw 15 years ago, but now see regularly, along with the little red ones that we’ve always and only seen on our visits to Acadia (e.g., not even in southern Massachusetts)?

  2. By Anonymous -

    Portland me area I am seeing a large black full bellied tapering down to beautiful silver plated almost tail feathers small head
    2 to 3 inches of natural colored legs showing

    cannot find a like picture in bird books

    thank you

  3. By Terry -

    Going south on i95 between Houlton and Lincoln. There was a big
    Vulture eating something on the side. It has black feathers with some whiteish feathers. A long s neck. The closest I have found is Colombian
    Vulture.. could it be ?

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