I live out in the country. I have neighbors and there is traffic on our road so we are not isolated but there are more cows in this county than there are people. For the most part, the cattle live in large open pastures with scrub brush and some trees. We have several varieties of oak along with pecan and pine trees, Osage orange, yaupon and trash trees like hackberry and tallow. The topography is slightly rolling with creeks down in the low areas. There are lots of deer out here and flying down the back roads at great speed close to either dusk or dawn is dangerous. We have skunks and opossums and rabbits and gophers and moles and various other small animals. And we have lots of birds. We see an occasional eagle, lots of hawks and starlings and swifts and cardinals and since our neighbors are raising quail, we see lots of those too.
Given all the wildlife out here, it’s not surprising that we have lots of carrion birds. Turkey vultures are very common along with black vultures and Caracara birds. We call them all buzzards and you can see them flying on the air currents searching for food or crowded around road kill on the back roads. Turkey vultures are large dark brown to black birds with a red head. Black vultures look very similar to Turkey vultures but have a black head. Caracara birds are also in the vulture family so they look similar to the vultures but have large white or light colored patches on their wings. All three birds eat carrion although the Caracara birds will also kill and eat small animals. They definitely have their place in the eco-system, cleaning up the remains of dead animals and thinning the populations of small varmints.
But, and it’s a really big but…. I grew up with lots of cowboy movies where the circling vultures always signal the hero that something is amiss. There are dead cattle or dead friends or the remnants of an Indian shoot-out just over the brow of the hill. So when I moved out here, I was always concerned when I saw the buzzards circling over a spot on my property. The first few times I actually ran out to the pasture to count noses and make sure everyone was fine. So far, everyone has always been fine. I’ve never found an animal in distress or dying so I’m sure the vultures are scouting for something to eat that doesn’t belong to me. I’ve gotten used to seeing them flying around and don’t think much of it anymore.
However, I draw the line at having them perch on my house. True, my chimney is the tallest thing around and I’m sure it gives them a great view of the road and the open pastures. But it’s just creepy having them sitting on my house. During one of the storms we had earlier this spring, they were perched on my chimney and tapping on the metal chimney cap at the very top. The sound reverberated down my chimney and it sounded like they were coming through my fireplace. It would have been funny on a sunny day but in the middle of the night with the wind howling and the rain pounding, it was disturbing. And creepy. I just wish they would sit on a telephone pole instead.