Vultures as nature’s scavengers.
Turkey vultures are commonly seen throughout the Florida Treasure Coast communities of Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River Counties. They are fairly easy to distinguish from black vultures. Turkey vultures have red heads; whereas, black vultures have black heads. There are other distinguishing characteristics, but this is generally how I identify them.
They are one of nature’s most well-known scavengers and sometimes get a bad rap for doing the “dirty work” of eating carrion. This week I saw a group of them picking away at four feral hog carcasses along S.R. 68. I also saw them flying high in circular formation riding the thermal convection currents.
Types of questions I receive about vultures.
While vultures play an important role as scavengers and carrion eaters, they sometimes cause problems for county residents. Over the years, I have received calls from homeowners having difficulty with vultures roosting on pool screen enclosures. They will sometimes carry carcass parts back to their roost and defecate below.
There are some unique and innovative potential remedies for vulture problems. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission lists some of these remedies on their vulture publication linked below (FWC, 2023).
Installing an effigy upside down to discourage vultures.
Auditory repellents such as horns.
Motion activated water sprinklers, spraying them with water hoses.
Removing potential food sources.
Using taut wire to discourage landing on roosting areas.
I was in touch with John Nelson with the Audubon Moment about vulture issues. He mentioned his dog chased vultures off his yard on occasion. Well, they are man’s best friend for a reason!
Turkey vulture legal status.
Florida Fish and Wildlife lists turkey vultures as a native bird species. They are protected through the Federal Migratory Bird Act. Information about their legal status in Florida is available online at 68A-16 : RULES RELATING TO BIRDS – Florida Administrative Rules, Law, Code, Register – FAC, FAR, eRulemaking (flrules.org)
Federal Migratory Bird Act (2020 Update). https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/04/16/2020-06779/general-provisions-revised-list-of-migratory-birds
FWC. 2023. Living with Vultures. Retrieved online on January 13, 2023 from https://myfwc.com/media/27207/living-with-vultures.pdf
Pfeiffer, M.B., Blackwell, B.F., Seamans, T.W. et al. Responses of turkey vultures to unmanned aircraft systems vary by platform. Sci Rep 11, 21655 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-01098-5
Vultures. Florida Fish and Wildife Conservation Commission. https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/birds/raptors-and-vultures/vultures/