Saturday, November 27, 2010

What To Do with a Tame Buzzard

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," sadly drawing toward the end of a long weekend! Don't pay attention to what the governor of New Jersey tells you. School teachers work hard. At least I haven't found a way to pace myself yet.

But today I come to you with a very serious message. Please be seated and pay attention.

I just heard from Kevin Spahr, the producer/director of "Glen Rock Fae," a documentary about the Spoutwood Fairie Festival. Kevin didn't write to me about the festival or the film, however. He wrote to me because he saw that I like buzzards, and he had an up-close-and-personal conversation with one this summer in New Hope, PA.

As Kevin tells it, a young buzzard was strolling the streets of New Hope, cadging goodies from tourists. It was not intimidated by the crowds (which intimidate me) nor by the dogs. In fact, it tried to jump up on his lap.

Of course, having a vulture jump onto my lap is the stuff dreams are made of. Well ... let me re-phrase that. Having a tame vulture jump on my lap while I'm hale and hearty is the stuff dreams are made of. If I'm slowly expiring and a buzzard is overly eager to nibble, I might not be so pleased.

Pay attention, now. If a vulture ever acts this way around you (cadging treats, tugging at your shoelaces for attention, fearless of people and domestic animals), call 911 and track that bird. Don't let it out of your sight until Animal Control shows up to take possession.

Vultures are a protected species and should not be domesticated. However, every now and then some well-meaning human finds a baby buzzard and brings it indoors and tames it. Vultures are very intelligent. They learn fast who is feeding them. Unlike parrots, they are virtually noiseless. They can't vocalize at all hardly. Eventually, though, their toilet habits make them undesirable as pets. It's at that point -- when they're mostly grown and completely clueless about how to live as a buzzard -- that their foster parents drop them on the side of the road and tell them to find a possum.

The people at wildlife rescue do not kill these domesticated birds. They use them as teaching tools. I saw one domesticated turkey vulture on Hawk Mountain last September who was thoroughly enjoying being the object of attention while still living a quality life in a wildlife rehab center.

What happens to a tame buzzard who isn't taken in by wildlife rescue? It can get attacked by dogs or hit by a car. In rural areas it will starve. All this is needless suffering, because healthy turkey vultures, tame or not, are not euthanized at wildlife rehab centers. They are either nursed back to health and returned to the wild (if they know they're buzzards), used as teaching tools (if they think they're human), or allowed use of a flight cage (food and roost for life) if they can no longer fly and aren't tame.

If you can get close enough to a buzzard that you could pet its head, and it's not hissing at you and vomiting on your feet, call Animal Control. That's not the way buzzards behave. They are very shy and want nothing to do with humans who are alive.

The word of Vulture for the people of Vulture. Thanks be to Vulture.


Shades of Scorpio said...

Sage advice....I would have had absolutely no idea if I hadn't read this post! Not that I have a buzzard harem following me, but at least I know what to do if one appears in my life.

Sarita Rucker said...

I'll keep this in mind if I happen across a tame buzzard.

Thanks for sharing!


I'm writing all this down ..just in case.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Thanks for the info -- because, after all, you never know who will cross your path.

River Owl said...

Actually when I lived in St. Cloud, MN they even nursed ducks that had been hit by cars back to health. I was really surprised by that, happy, but surprised.

Did this buzzard find a new home?

Davo said...

heh. um, might be drifting off topic but the bit about "toilet habits" caught my interest. There is a chook (Gallus gallus domesticus) here that seems to have 'adopted' my backyard. Have a tendency to leave my back door open. Hid itself behind the toilet door one night; whoo boy. Is there some way to teach it to hop up on the porcelain?

Also, chooks aren't all that far away from raptors. Worked in a shed full of 'em some time ago. Pity the one which got sick; pecked to death and eaten.

(PS. word verification - duckdits, heh.)

Intense Guy said...

Closest I ever got to a vulture was when I went on a long walk with my mom and she got tired and started to lag, just then the sky filled with Vultures and she hollared up at them, I'm not dead yet!!! and I offered to find a bungy cord to use to pulled/drag her along...

Terraluna said...

If you see a fledgling bird on the ground, unless it is obviously injured, leave it alone. Bird parents will leave their fledglings to hop around on the ground while they go get food, then come back for them.
My daughter volunteered at the local wildlife rescue for two years. A lot of perfectly healthy fledglings were brought in by caring but uninformed people. As good as the folks at the wildlife center are to these babies, they are much better off being raised by their wild birdie 'rents.