The Buzz On Buzzards

Posted: Saturday, July 9, 2011 at 8:36 am
By: Doug Lund
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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)

 buzzard ugly close up

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.

buzzards circling tower kelo frz.

buzzards on tower kelo frz

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.

buzzards kelo freeze looking down

 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.

buzzard kelo freeze flying from 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.

buzzard decoy frz

 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.


  1. Joe says:

    I don’t know how I forgot about those but I did. You brought back a memory of me going out the backdoor and getting nailed. Thank God it hit the shoulder of the KELO parka. But you were right, had to get it off in a hurry or it would have ate right through the fabric.

  2. squibby says:

    Where’s a good Falconer when you need one?

  3. grouse says:

    This sounds like a job for Tippi Hedrun! She’ll solve the problem.

  4. sherrol452A says:

    I remeber the first time you alll told us about them. Ypu and Dave Dedrick ( forgive me for my spelling) AWESOME

  5. grouse says:

    It seems that I remember a wild life documentary that made the point that buzzards and scavengers have a special sense that leads them to where there will soon be a terrible calamity with wide spread death and destruction. It seems to be nature’s way of being on the scene to cleanse the carnage. I know that’s a very unpleasant thought, but we should probably just accept the idea and try to have a nice day!

  6. Tom says:

    A few years back a friend and I both golfed VERY badly on the front 9 of a course we were playing for the first time. Our performance was several notches lower than pathetic. As I prepared to drive
    on #10, I happened to look up and there it was….a large “Kettle” of turkey vultures directly above the tee box waiting to see if we could possibly stink it up even worse on the back 9! We did get a good laugh as we thought we were pretty rotten golfers that day too. As I recall, we both improved to
    “awful” on the back 9!

  7. grouse says:

    I figured it out! The buzzards kept hearing that awful “Keloland Is Your Home” jingle, and decided to take Keloland up on the deal! “Keloland is what we call our home….This is your home”.

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