The New Vulture Culture
edited: Saturday, March 04, 2006
By Bob Holt
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Saturday, March 04, 2006
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In South Jersey, they're celebrating their favorite feathered friends, for some reason. And they don't even need a scoop.
Back when I was growing up, I lived in the small southern New Jersey town of Wenonah. I've always known Wenonah as a nice, friendly city where the grass may have been greener on the other side, but the property taxes were still equally as high.
For the most part there wasn't any kind of large turnover in the population. And the same basically holds true these days.
Except for the vultures.
It seems that about one hundred vultures have come to roost in Wenonah over the past four years. Upon hearing this, I realized that up till now my knowledge of vultures has been quite limited. I'd always thought that vultures held law degrees and liked to chase ambulances.
Vultures have always had that kind of an image problem. On those rare occasions when someone thinks of them, they usually remember the cartoon with the old, haggard looking guy crawling across the desert in search of a drop of water while the vultures( also known as buzzards )circle overhead thinking, "Looks like it won't be an Arby's night tonight after all."
The finest public relations firm in the country would have a hard time rebuilding the image of these birds. So a group of organizers in Wenonah have decided to do the job themselves.
On March 4, Wenonah will host the Gloucester County Vulture Festival, running from 6 to 9 PM in the Community Center. The event features vulture poetry, music from guitar virtuoso Jim Six, and valuable vulture information from bird presentations.
I found more vulture information available at the Turkey Vulture Society. Ninety percent of Wenonah's birds are turkey vultures, and the Society informed me that these animals are very necessary, and they perform a vital function. They feed on roadkill or other decomposing animals.
The Society also reports that turkey vultures are playful, gentle, and seem to enjoy living close to humans. But it is not recommended that anyone adopts a vulture as a pet.
And vultures have a sense of humor. Before roosting at night they play tag, soar into the air and play follow the leader.
You don't usually think of vultures as humorous. Of course, I remember when migration approached one year, and two elderly vultures doubted they could make the trip south. They decided to go by airplane.
When they checked their baggage, the attendant noticed that they were carrying two dead raccoons. "Do you want to check the raccoons through as luggage?" she asked.
"No thanks," replied the vultures. "They're carrion."
Speaking of old vultures, the Turkey Vulture Society says that the oldest known turkey vulture, Tolouse, is thirty-three years old and living at the San Francisco Zoo. Further research tells us that the turkey vulture is able to locate this carrion by his acute sense of smell. They also possess superior intelligence and keen vision. The vulture has a body length of twenty-four to twenty-five inches, a wingspan of five to six feet, and weighs between three and a half to five pounds.
He is recognized by his bald, red head and found across the United States and Canada. Turkey vultures have to eat dead animals because their talons are not strong enough to kill prey.
But the Wenonah residents could tell you all of this. My vulture knowledge as a youth came from Bugs Bunny cartoons, which featured a buzzard known as Beaky.
Beaky was a young buzzard who was always sent off by his mother to bring home something for dinner. His mother spoke with an indiscernible accent, and always called the slow-witted Beaky "Killer." He would usually wind up bringing home a baby bumblebee, which was not all that filling.
And Wenonah is hardly the first community to celebrate these trash collectors of the air. In Hinckley, Ohio, the first Sunday after March 15 means it's time for Buzzard Sunday, which dates back to 1957.
Every year turkey vultures come home to roost in the rock cliffs and ledges in Hinckley. Nine thousand people flocked into town to see the return of the birds in 1957.
This year's spectacular includes nature hikes, children's crafts, the Earthwords Nature Shop, your own Official Buzzard Scorecard, and live animal programs, as opposed to ones more suitable for their guests of honor.
And the Turkey Vulture Society wants you to know that the vulture plays a big part in helping to keep your community clean. That part would be their vulture poop. Their uric acid is so strong( because of the nature of the vulture's diet )that it kills bacteria.
Now if that isn't a ringing endorsement for the value of vultures, then I don't know what is. But Wenonah would prefer that you "Look alive!" for the Gloucester County Vulture Festival, a statement they use as the motto for their cause.
So don't be fooled by a vulture's image. They get no more respect than your local trash collector, but you'd miss them if they didn't come around.
Web Site: Lifestyles of the Unskilled and Mediocre
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|Reviewed by Kate Clifford
|While living in Southern Ontario I saw many of these birds. At first I thought they were eagles.......sight trouble back then LOL. they are very large birds and smart. Thanks for the info.|
|Reviewed by Birgit and Roger Pratcher
|We've got do used to them along our highways and country roads that we really would miss them. They are quiet impressive with their big wings and mean looking faces. And, we always make sure to look very much alive!
Birgit and Roger
|Reviewed by Tinka Boukes
|True ending on this one Bob!!
"but you'd miss them if they didn't come around"
|Reviewed by Ed Matlack
|Yes send them vultures my way, rufuz loves a meal or two on the wing, as it were...leave it to people in Gloucester county to come up with this type of day...always knew they were sick thereabouts...those sculptured lawns and such never fooled me...so whats for dinner tonight, ma...ed & rufuz|
|Reviewed by Mr. Ed
|but you'd miss them if they didn't come around.
We truly would, and that turkey vulture is truly one under appreciated bird. I've been to the Hinkley Homecoming, but never knew Jersey had one, too.
PS Can they stop at Ed Matlack's place on the way - maybe they could spruce it up a little!