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March 15 is Buzzard Day

Updated on February 21, 2015

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.

Photo Credit:Fresno Night

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.

Photo Credit:The Lawrd

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.

Rich Diesslins Funny General Cartoons - Buzzards Reflect on Pizza - Its Not Carrion Its DiGiorno - MousePad (mp_3814_1)
Rich Diesslins Funny General Cartoons - Buzzards Reflect on Pizza - Its Not Carrion Its DiGiorno - MousePad (mp_3814_1)

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.

 

Innocent bystanders

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.

History of Buzzard Day

How did it all start?

Buzzard drying its wings above a lamp post

This buzzard was preening and cleaning its feathers atop this lamp post near my house.  It then spread its wings for a good two minutes to dry under the sun.
This buzzard was preening and cleaning its feathers atop this lamp post near my house. It then spread its wings for a good two minutes to dry under the sun. | Source

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?

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Cuddlekins Turkey Vulture 12" Plush

This plush and lovable buzzard will not hurl regurgitated vomit at you when it is cuddled. It is docile, will not hiss at you and does not need to be fed. Looks great on the couch, in your office, den, or a child's room.

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.

What do you think of nature's cleanup crew extraordinaire? - Should the buzzard get some respect now?

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    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 4 years ago

      I see them all the time where I live, and they almost never flap their wings.

    • Steph Tietjen profile image

      Stephanie Tietjen 5 years ago from Albuquerque, New Mexico

      Yes, they are part of the circle. Excellent lens.

    • profile image

      gaylord-young 5 years ago

      Great looking birds.

    • lbrummer profile image

      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      I'm learning a lot today!!

    • julescorriere profile image

      Jules Corriere 5 years ago from Jonesborough TN

      Terrific Lens. Congratulations on being one of the top lenses for Silly Celebrations in March. Blessed!

    • bikerministry profile image

      bikerministry 5 years ago

      Another one of life's necessities. Great lens, congrats on Silly March Celebrations. Blessings.

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      These are great birds. It's always good to watch one soaring above. All of the birds thank you for publishing this lens.

    • greenspirit profile image

      poppy mercer 5 years ago from London

      Respect to the Buzzard, and Angel Blessings to you too.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Never knew that there was a buzzard day, but I suppose even our less pretty feathered friends deserve a day!

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 5 years ago

      Thanks for teaching us this scary bird is beneficial to us and the environment. Love the cake photo.

    • glenbrook profile image

      glenbrook 5 years ago

      @anonymous: hmmm... I don't think I'll be trying that one...

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      "....the bird poops and urinates on its legs (a behavior called urohydrosis) to cool itself in hot days."

      hummm...an interesting experiment for a hot August afternoon?

    • profile image

      entertainmentev 5 years ago

      I'm glad they get a day to celebrate! Great lens.

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 5 years ago from East Central Florida

      How ironic that the Ides of March should be chosed for Buzzard Day!