Thursday, March 15, 2012

Buzzard Day!

Now that you have all been educated about the term "Buzzard", it's time to celebrate the annual arrival of the "buzzards" (ahem, Turkey Vultures...) in the town of Hinckley, Ohio.

Each year on March 15th, the Humans of Hinckley gather at 6:30 in the morning with binoculars and coffee, each trying to spot the first arriving Turkey Vulture of the year.

See, Turkey Vultures are migratory. Each year around September they form into large groups called 'kettles' and fly south for the winter. Their bare legs and heads just can't keep them warm during the cold US winters. So they cruise on down to Mexico and Venezuela and the like, where they soar on jungle thermals and feast on the flesh of dead...monkeys? Then, in the spring, they return to the US for the warm weather and different selection of carcasses.

In the town of Hinckley, the Humans understand how awesome and incredible Turkey Vultures are*, so they celebrate their arrival each year with Buzzard Day. It's considered the official start of spring for them! March 15th was selected as the day for this fiesta back in the 1950's, when for six years in a row the first Turkey Vulture arrived in town on March 15th. It doesn't always happen on that day, so the inhabitants of Hinckley just pretend they didn't see that Vulture back on March 11th...

I haven't yet seen any Turkey Vultures here in Fort Collins this year. Have any of you Humans? Because I agree with Hinckley: when the Turkey Vultures arrive, spring is here. Of course, there are other migratory Raptors I could use for that same purpose (the Merlins and the Rough Legged Hawks should be heading north now, and the Swainson's Hawks will be hot on the tails of the Turkey Vultures), but there's something about the uniqueness of Vultures that makes their arrival more notable. More 'springy".

Now, even though I support the idea of Buzzard Day in Hinckely, I had to ask: where is a town celebrating Owls? Unfortunately I asked this question too late, as the International Festival of Owls in Houston, Minnesota just happened a couple of weekends ago. I don't know how I'll make it happen, but next year: I'm going.

In the meantime, Happy Buzzard Day!

*Telling you about how cool Turkey Vultures are will have to wait for another article. In fact, I think I'm going to start giving a profile on each of the amazing Raptor species seen here in Colorado, maybe one a week. Stay tuned!

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