U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version

Winter 2020


Human–Wildlife Interactions 14(3):390–397, Winter 2020 • digitalcommons.usu.edu/hwi




Vultures (Cathartidae and Accipitridae) play an important role in ecosystem balance by rapidly disposing animal carcasses and thus preventing the potential spread of pathogens. Blood chemistry values provide a means of assessing the health of wildlife and wild animal populations; however, there are significant differences in chemistries among species and when comparing captive and free-living New and Old World vultures. In 2007, we collected blood serum from 30 female and 14 male wild, healthy black vultures (Coragyps atratus) live-trapped by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services from a power substation in Lowndes County, Mississippi, USA. We analyzed the blood serum to provide serum chemistry base values for use in clinical pathology. The chemical analytes we measured included sodium, chloride, potassium, carbon dioxide, anion gap, glucose, creatinine, calcium, phosphorus, total protein, albumin, globulin, and aspartate aminotransferase. In general, blood chemistry values of black vultures were similar to those found in New and Old World vultures and raptor species. Average chemistry values for males were lower than females for sodium, chloride, creatinine, calcium, total protein, albumin, and globulin. The serum chemistry values we describe in this paper can be important indicators of avian health by gender for the black vulture. Our study provided important blood chemistry values from a large sample size, which is rarely available in free-ranging black vultures. These values could be used by scientists, veterinary pathologists, wildlife rehabilitation centers, and other researchers for baseline data for wild and free-ranging birds. Furthermore, the use of such parameters in assessing population health may enable conservationists to further research environmental conditions affecting species reproduction and survival.