A recent call from a citizen concerned about a vulture with an injured wing resulted in our newest patient. The adult female turkey vulture was hiding under the gentleman’s car, and when he turned his back, she ran into his garage and took refuge there. He wasn’t sure he liked the guest in his garage, but he heeded our advice to close the garage door, with the guarantee that an Owl Moon volunteer would remove the vulture in a timely manor. Vultures are very fast on their feet, and can leap over 5 foot fences, so even a vulture that can’t fly can require an army to capture. Having her confined in a garage would be a huge help. Our volunteer, Amy, arrived and caught the injured vulture, boxed her, and transported her to Owl Moon Raptor Center. Upon examination, we determined that she had a fracture in the metacarpal bones of the outer right wing. We took her to Bennett Creek Animal Hospital for x-rays. The radiographs confirmed that she had been shot, which caused the fracture, and excruciating pain. We cleaned and treated the wound, and devised a splint to stabilize the fractured bone. We applied the splint with tape, and bandaged the wing to immobilize it and make her more comfortable. She is receiving pain medicine and antibiotics, as well as regular bandage changes and physical therapy.
This turkey vulture was found in a residential neighborhood in Laurel, MD, and is not likely to have traveled far in her condition. We suspect she was shot in or near this neighborhood. It is illegal to shoot any birds of prey, and this includes vultures. This case was reported to the US Fish and Wildlife Service and MD Department of Natural Resources Police.
A few interesting facts about Turkey Vultures and why they are important in our environment include the following:
- Being carrion feeders (scavengers), Turkey Vultures serve the important purpose of cleaning up our roadkill deer and other carrion. A world without vultures would be a world littered with the carcasses of dead animals.
- The Turkey Vulture, unlike most birds, has a highly developed sense of smell. Their sense of smell is so keen that they “can detect the scent of rotting flesh in concentrations as tiny as a few parts per billion in the air” and find food that has been hidden under leaves, according to a study done by scientists with the Smithsonian Institute. Their smell is so much better than their Black Vulture cousins, that Black Vultures watch for where Turkey Vultures fly in circles above a dead animal and then swoop in to partake in the carrion feast.
- Turkey Vultures cannot sing, since they have no vocal cords, but rather make a gutteral hissing sound that sounds like a mad dragon.
- They are the most migratory vulture species in North America.
- They are very large birds and, while flying, are commonly mistaken for eagles. Turkey vultures soar with few wing flaps and hold their wings in a slight “V” position.
We usually do not know what happened to the raptors that come into our care, but we know that vultures often choose the trees and roofs of homes in suburban neighborhoods for roosting, sometimes in large numbers. They can make quite a mess with their droppings. We know this habit can make a homeowner unhappy, and some will take up firearms to rid themselves of this nuisance. Shooting a vulture or two won’t solve the problem, and there are alternative and lawful ways to discourage a vulture roost.
In the article “If You Can’t Live With Turkey Vultures Get Them to Move” written by Andrea Kitay in the LA Times on July 02, 2000, many ways to discourage vulture roosts are suggested, some of which include the following:
According to Noel Myers, staff wildlife biologist at the USDA’s Wildlife Services in Sacramento, California, the remedies they are confined to include eliminating or thinning trees the birds are roosting in, or simply harassing them away. Myers suggests using a high-pressure water spray, loud noises like sirens and honking sounds–or even firecrackers if they are legal where you live. Generally, turkey vultures leave their roosts in the morning to search out food. They may spend the day loafing on roofs, poles, the ground, spa and boat covers—even patio furniture. You’ll want to begin your harassment routine in the late afternoon, when the first birds begin to return to the roost. Be persistent. Turkey vultures can get pretty entrenched in their roost, so you may have great difficulty convincing them to go. And then, if they do, they may only move next door.
For further information on vulture deterrents please reference the following website:
Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the Owl Moon Raptor Festival on Sunday, November 12, 2017 from noon to 4 pm at Black Hills Regional Park Nature Center.