New neighbors have moved into Cordova, and they come home each day around sunset — by air.
Buzzard numbers are on the rise in North Carolina, wildlife officials said, and they have been helping clean up roadkill. A colony of about 100 turkey vultures — Cathartes aura — has taken up residence on Raven Hill Drive in Cordova, southwest of Rockingham.
Residents around Rockingham reported buzzards returning to their homes for several weeks. One resident said she felt as if it were an omen, like she might die.
According to the annual breeding bird count conducted by the Patuxent (Md.) Wildlife Research Center, the number of black vultures in North Carolina increased by about 150 percent from 2000 to 2010.
Turkey vulture numbers jumped by about 130 percent in the state during the same time.
“Those are really big increases,” said John Sauer, a wildlife biologist with the Patuxent center. “This is a big number.”
Sauer helps conduct the annual breeding bird count and calculates the numbers into usable charts.
On Raven Hill Drive, the 100 buzzards perch in the tops of trees, creating a stir in the neighborhood. One resident said they come there every day, like clockwork. Another neighbor got her car out of her garage, and prepared to leave her home, startling the birds that were resting in her backyard. The birds left their perches and soared into the air, in what looked like a bird tornado.
Piedmont Wildlife Diversity Biologist Jeff Marcus said it is not unusual to see a large group of buzzards, with more appearing each day.
“It’s not uncommon to all of a sudden be seeing more of them,” said Marcus about the ‘committee’ of vultures. “They can move over large distances quickly and congregate when they see others. There may be more birds around or it may be that people are noticing them more.”
Marcus explained that between the two types of vultures, turkey vultures and black vultures, the turkey vultures smell their food while the black vultures see it. Some buzzards may be smelling the food and circling and others may be drawn to the circling birds.
“It’s important to note that vultures don’t pose any threat to people or their pets; they are just eating dead stuff,” said Marcus. “They can be a nuisance and may in some cases be smelly or messy, but they play an important role in that they clean up a lot of stuff that would otherwise contribute to diseases and other roadkill.”
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.