Vultures all the buzz in Richmond

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

ROCKINGHAM — They’re ugly, that’s for sure. And they stink. But they won’t carry off your little dogs or even your kids because, well, they only eat stuff that’s already dead.

Turkey vultures are generally harmless, according to wildlife experts, and a benefit to the ecosystem by eating things no one else will. Still, the large number of turkey vultures — formally known as Cathartes aura, but commonly referred to as buzzards — can’t help but get people’s attention.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

They’ve been seen in recent weeks across the county in large groups, their presence highlighted by a key flock trait of wobbly, spiraling swarms around a nest or a freshly killed animal — i.e., dinner for the birds.

Here’s how the Western North Carolina Nature Center describes the creates:

The turkey vulture is a very large bird, brownish-black in coloration. The head is bare of feathers and is colored red on adult birds and black in immatures. The beak is long and pinkish-red with a tan tip. The feet are rather weak with blunt talons. They are easily identified in flight by their dark color and large size. As they soar and circle overhead they also hold their wings in a slight V. From underneath, the leading edge of the turkey vulture’s wings appear dark and the trailing edge light in color. Turkey vultures range in length from 25 to 32 inches with a wingspan of up to 6 feet. Because of their large size, vultures are sometimes mistaken for eagles when seen from a distance.

Says The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: “They are a consummate scavenger, cleaning up the countryside one bite of their sharply hooked bill at a time, and never mussing a feather on their bald heads.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Dozens of turkey vultures have found a home atop the water tower on East Washington Street Extension behind First Presbyterian Church in Rockingham. Let's face it: they have a great view of Richmond County sunsets.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Dozens of turkey vultures have found a home atop the water tower on East Washington Street Extension behind First Presbyterian Church in Rockingham. Let’s face it: they have a great view of Richmond County sunsets.

The Carolina Bird Club website indicates turkey vultures are just one of 164 species of birds in North Carolina.

“The species nests in … abandoned sheds/barns, nooks in cliffs, hollow trees, under dense thickets — but it forages at all types of habitats, favoring open or broken country around wooded margins, fields, and other places wherever dead animals are found.”

In 2013, the city of Shelby experienced an influx of the federally protected species — that’s right, you could get into trouble if you harm them — where residents documented damage to garbage piles, shingled roofs and more.

And if you simply try to scare them away — they vomit.

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, News

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