March 15 is Buzzard Day
Celebrate Buzzard Day on March 15
March 15 is a wacky holiday called Buzzard Day. Buzzards are also known as turkey vultures, found in most of the Americas. These creatures are often reviled for their sinister look, hunched stance and ominous presence. Yet, these shy and misunderstood scavengers are nature's finest garbage collectors, locating and cleaning up roadkill and carrion (carcasses of dead animals).
Buzzards play an essential role in keeping diseases from spreading in our environment. Today is a day of appreciation for the much-maligned and unloved buzzards. Celebrate Buzzard Day.
What is a buzzard?
The buzzard, a common name for the "turkey vulture," belongs to the New World vulture family and is a large graceful bird with a bald head and red beak. Turkey vulture is not related to the black, Old World vulture family, which includes the eagle, hawk, and kite. The buzzard is native to the Americas from southern Canada to the tip of Cape Horn.
Some facts about the buzzard
The consummate scavenger
The head and neck of both the New World and Old World vultures are mostly bare except for a thin covering of down. This is to keep their heads clean when they dive into the messy cavities of carcasses and decaying meat.
The turkey vulture is a New World Vulture with the head of a turkey and the feet of a chicken. It's feet are weak and made more for running and walking unlike the Old World vulture's feet which has talons adapted to grabbing and picking up its food.
The turkey vulture has a highly developed sense of smell aside its their keen eyesight. This allows it to smell its food even in the dense tropical rainforests. Old World vultures do not have a keen sense of smell and rely on their exceptional eyesight to spot a prey 4 miles away.
When threatened with danger, the turkey vulture will vomit and startle its predator. This is also a way to unload the extra weight in its body so it can make a quick getaway as well as make room for its next meal.
The turkey vulture uses its feet to hold down road kill or decaying carcass when it tears out the pieces of meat. I once came upon a turkey vulture stomping on a roadkill with its feet. The movements sort of reminded me of a grape crushing event. My first reaction was to cringe and wonder how this bird keeps its feet clean after eating its messy dinner.
So how does the vulture sanitize its legs? Strange as it sounds, the bird poops and urinates on its legs (a behavior called urohydrosis) to cool itself in hot days. The uric acid of the urine kills the bacteria on its messy feet as well as lightens the color of the feet of the vulture.
Mousepads do not have to be boring just plain functional. It can add a smile to your face especially with the humor of these two buzzards.
Buzzards are actually turkey vultures, and do not kill. Their beaks and talons are not designed to tear into a live carcass. These humble birds wait on the side for roadkill.
High-flying birds of grace and agility
What nature took away in looks from the buzzards have been compensated with excellent soaring skills and keen sense of smell. Buzzards have large broad wings ( up to 6 feet) which make them magnificently bouyant. They ride the warm air thermals and can glide for hours without flapping their wings sniffing around for carrion.
How does one recognize a buzzards or turkey vultures? The wings of a turkey vulture is held in a V-shape, or dihedral, over their backs. They have a characteristic wobbly and seemingly unsteady flying habit.
Nature's sanitizers and cleanup crew
The Latin name of the Turkey Vulture is Cathartes Aura which means 'golden purifier.'
Credit:Brian K Kushner
Somebody's got to do the dirty work.
- Turkey Vulture Facts
Facts about the Turkey Vulture
- EEK! - Critter Corner - Turkey Vulture
This large bird species has been around since prehistoric times. Turkey vultures act as nature's ultimate garbage collector, recycler, and scavenger using their keen sense of smell and sight to find ripe carcasses.
- Turkey Vulture
Turkey Vulture -Cathartes aura also known as Buzzard, carrion crow, John Crow, red-necked buzzard, turkey buzzard. What is the scientific name? Cathartes aura Pronounced KATH-are-TEEZ OW-rah What does it mean?
- Turkey Vulture classification and characteristics
WPZ Animal Fact Sheets - Turkey Vulture
- Turkey Vulture identification
Learn how to identify Turkey Vulture, its life history, cool facts, sounds and calls, and watch videos. If you've gone looking for raptors on a clear day, your heart has probably leaped at the sight of a large, soaring bird in the distance- perhaps a
- Habitat Herald Newsletter: Turkey Vulture
Article on Turkey Vultures in Loudoun County Virginia and the benefits they provide. Interesting facts, history and habits explained. This was published in the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy's Habitat Herald, an environmental education newsletter cente
History of Buzzard Day
How did it all start?
Buzzard drying its wings above a lamp post
- Buzzard Day in Montana
Each spring, Makoshika State Park celebrates the return of the turkey vulture to eastern Montana with Buzzard Day, a tongue-in-cheek day of appreciation for one of 'nature's cleaners'.
- Buzzard Day in Hinckley, Ohio
Every year on March 15, buzzards (turkey vultures) return to Hinckley, Ohio to roost.
- Buzzard Day at Boyce Thompson Arboretum
The official website of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. A friend to all desert plants.
- Annual Return of the Buzzards
Cleveland Metroparks will conserve significant natural resources and enhance people's lives by providing safe, high-quality outdoor education, recreation, and zoological opportunities. Further, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is committed to improving the f
The buzz about buzzards
The Turkey Vulture Society is aware of these six annual events in the U.S. focusing on the Turkey Vulture.
Do you feel buzzards or turkey vultures should be celebrated?
Cuddlekins Turkey Vulture 12" Plush
This plush turkey vulture has realistic markings and weighted wings so that it can sit up and not fall over. What a fun way to give to a bird lover or a child as an educational toy.