So this buzzard carrying two dead raccoons tries to board an airplane but was stopped by a flight attendant who said, “Sorry sir, only one carrion per passenger.” (pa-dum-pum)
In 2005, my friend, Bernie Hunhoff, over at South Dakota Magazine, wrote a short story about the much maligned Turkey Vulture extolling some of its virtues such as…well, I can’t remember what virtues this horrid looking creature possesses. But Bernie did point out a few and also mentioned that a group of them is called a “Venue” and when they’re flying in a circle, that’s called a “Kettle.”
You’re going to have a hard time convincing me or anybody else who has worked at Keloland Television over the last 15 years, to say anything positive about these big black buzzards. Why? Well, here’s the comment I wrote to Bernie’s article: A few years ago, a “venue” of turkey vultures, apparently seeking loftier goals in life, flew into town and decided to perch atop our 200 foot television tower behind the KELO studios. Somehow, through buzzardese or whatever method of communication they use, word got around and we now have “kettles” by the hundreds circling the tower and holding family reunions perched upon the steel crossbars and antenna mounts throughout the summer.
It’s apparently a perfect spot to relax from a hard days soaring and scavenging. They chat, I suppose, about the lovely view and the tasty meal of gaseous road kill they’ve enjoyed. Then nature takes its course and, almost in unison, they release their digested material in such huge amounts that it can be picked up on the Keloland Live Doppler radar.
It rains down onto our vehicles parked in the lot below giving them a nauseating polka dot appearance. The droppings are so acidic they must be washed off quickly before burning holes in the paint. Depending on which way the wind is blowing and the velocity, the entire lot and anything on it is vulnerable to this baptism of buzzard poop. Angry vehicle owners have volunteered to shoot these polluting pests with a .22 rifle but that idea was nixed for safety reasons. So was a plan to hoist up some dead squirrels laced with enough poison to take ‘em all out. Come to find out, though, that someone, who obviously never had to live around these messy raptors, managed to get them on a protected species list so the only option remaining is to try scare them off the tower.
Our engineers actually got a speaker up there and pumped punk rock music through it full blast. The big birds fluttered a bit but then started getting into the rhythm. The Episcopalians attending church next door, however, did not.. so in the interest of ecumenical harmony, the speakers went silent.
When workers were making their annual tower inspection and changing burned out Christmas bulbs, (that illuminate the structure from Thanksgiving to New Years Day) they installed a “clapping” device on top that’s controlled by a 200 foot long rope. It makes a heck of a racket when pulled from below and at first the buzzards exploded off the tower in fear. But they eventually got used to that too and when they’d hear the clap, clap, clap it only seemed to startle them enough to prematurely release more polka dot making material toward the vehicles below.
The last attempt (that I know of) at ridding the tower of turkey vultures was three years ago when our chief engineer read about some success with hanging , what amounted to, buzzard decoys from the tower. Two fake birds were suspended by a wire. The idea was that when the real vultures approached and saw their comrades in distress, they’d fear suffering the same fate and fly on.
It turns out, though, that not only do turkey vultures have a world class sense of smell; they have excellent vision too and weren’t fooled one bit by the phonies.
So, just like the swallows return to Capistrano each spring, you can always tell the buzzards have come back to the Keloland tower by all the happy car wash owners in town and when you notice Keloland employees carrying open umbrellas to and from work even on a sunny day.