Hundreds of Vultures Invade Georgia Neighborhood

Five Turkey vultures hanging out on a branch.

James Robert Smith / Getty Images

The homeowners on Pelham Drive in Lee County, Georgia, are frustrated by the sudden influx of new residents to their neighborhood: hundreds of vultures that appear on their street every morning and afternoon.

Chan Sellers told WALB that about 500 or 600 vultures appear every morning around 8:30. The birds, turkey and black vultures, stick around for a few hours before they go out hunting. They return in the afternoon.

"When I got out to work in the morning, they're right there on my roof, when I open my door, [it] scares the crap out of me," Ryan Williams told the station. Williams says he is afraid to let his 6-week-old puppy out into his yard for fear the vultures will "scoop him up."

So far, all attempts to shoo the birds away from the southwest Georgia community — including noisy shotgun blasts — have been useless. Hundreds of vultures live in south Georgia, but winter migration patterns tend to swell their numbers this time of year.

"I just think that, that many in one place has got to be a health hazard I would think," said Sellers. The residents have appealed to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources for help, but DNR's hands are tied. Both the turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) and the black vulture (Coragyps atratus) are federally protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, under which a permit is required to "trap, kill, relocate or otherwise handle a vulture or its eggs," according to a fact sheet on vulture damage from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Black vultures are the more aggressive of the two species, but the two species commonly flock together, with turkey vultures feeding on carrion left behind by black vultures. In fact, it's this cleanup characteristic — though distasteful — that gives these maligned birds a much-needed role in the ecosystem, according to DNR.

The fact sheet says that populations of both species are on the rise, resulting in an accumulation of feces and the possible contamination of public water supplies. Vultures resting on electrical transmission towers have caused power arcs and outages. Other damage — more closely associated with black vultures — includes tearing and consuming of asphalt, rubber, latex and leather products, such as roofing materials or car parts. Black vultures also can attack and eat young livestock.

According to the Turkey Vulture Society, feces from that species are not a threat because of the birds' strong digestive acids, which kills most bacteria. The group says vultures prefer to roost in large colonies in areas with lots of tree cover. The group's website suggests shaking trees or using noise, shiny objects, or common lawn sprinklers to discourage turkey vultures from roosting.

You can watch WALB's report on the turkey invasion below: