Written by PETER KUEBECK Sentinel Staff Writer
Tuesday, 29 October 2013 09:43
They’re hard to miss on the west end of town: great, black birds with widespread wings and red heads, circling the sky in numbers sometimes approaching 100.
|A group of Turkey Vultures are seen high above Bowling Green Monday afternoon. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
They’re turkey vultures.
And, despite the animals’ rather unsavory reputation, they’re pretty harmless.
The birds, sometimes inaccurately called “buzzards,” have been sighted in large numbers recently as they prepare for their yearly migration south.
“They are on this side of town, I suspect, because there are bigger and older trees here,” said Chris Gajewicz, natural resources coordinator for the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department.
“They’ve been here for years and years.”
The birds – with their dark feathers and red heads – usually measure up to 32 inches in length, and have a 6-foot wingspan, weighing six pounds, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The vultures are nearly silent, making a hissing sound when disturbed, and lay only two eggs at a time.
They usually hang around Northwest Ohio from as early as February to as late as mid-December.
“They should be leaving here any day now,” said Gajewicz, adding later that “right now, we’re seeing large numbers because the ones from up north are coming further south” in preparation to migrate.
“They just kind of find a spot and they’re pretty happy with it,” he noted of why the birds may have chosen the western end of town for their roost. “My guess is they’re in the neighborhood because there’s a fairly adequate food source. Having I-75 and Route 6 and all the other roads where animals are continually being hit by cars, that’s the mainstay of their diet, is roadkill. Usually what happens is the coyotes will drag stuff off into a field and the vultures will” clean it up.
“They find everything they need in western Bowling Green.”
The birds can sometimes be sighted in great numbers. On Hillcrest Drive, a congregation of more than 40 of them was seen in the trees of one back yard recently, and they’ve also been reported hanging around other houses en masse as well. Often times such gatherings signal the fact that there’s a dead carcass in the area, such as a deer.
“There have been well over 100 in the sky at a time, and it’s really fascinating to watch,” said Gajewicz.
The birds travel in the air by catching “thermals” with their massive wings and gliding.
“They’re generally looking for food. But they also have a very keen sense of smell. Most birds don’t have a sense of smell, but a vulture’s is highly developed and they’re looking for that smell that can bring them the food.”
Despite their ominous appearance, the birds are “certainly nothing to be alarmed about.”
“They are absolutely no danger to pets or humans or anything alive, because they’re carrion-eaters.”
“The reason why they leave from up here is their food source freezes, and when it freezes, it doesn’t smell,” said Gajewicz.
“If you have a mild winter, they’ll be here all winter long.”