In flight, vultures, or buzzards, soar effortlessly and are a beautiful sight to behold. But up close, the bald-headed birds are considered anything but attractive. Buzzards have developed a bad reputation not only for their appearance, but for their eating habits that many people find disgusting.
If you notice a flock of buzzards gathered in one spot, particularly in rural areas and in or near roadways, this often signals that a dead animal is in the vicinity. Buzzards eat roadkill--the carcasses of animals that were hit by cars. Buzzards are not picky eaters and will eat just about any dead animal--possums, squirrels, rabbits, deer, domestic animals and even skunks (although they will leave the scent pouch of a skunk intact). When buzzards have a choice between fresh roadkill or a decayed animal carcass, however, they will always choose the fresh kill.
Types of Buzzards
Buzzards travel and sleep in large groups. There are several types of vultures: the turkey vulture, black vulture and California condor. They are considered to be somewhat of a social bird, and can often be seen perching on rooftops in large packs.
How Buzzards Find Food
Although buzzards have sharp sight like most birds, it is their extraordinary sense of smell that ultimately helps them find their next meal. The birds have a very keen sense of smell due to their well-developed olfactory lobes--a center in the brain that recognizes smells. The buzzards' hooked beaks and rough tongues make the business of shredding raw meat less time consuming.
When Do Buzzards Eat and How Much?
Buzzards have a difficult time seeing in the dark, and will always search for food during the day. Able to ride heat thermals or currents and soar without exerting themselves, buzzards usually do not get up before 9 a.m., when the temperature starts to warm the ground. The birds can survive for long periods of time without food if forced to, and often make up for this by overeating when they do find food. Buzzards can eat up to 25 percent of their body weight in one sitting, although this can cause problems when they later try to take flight.
Are Buzzards Beneficial or Dangerous?
As disgusting as they may seem, buzzards actually play an important role in the environment by eating the carcasses of dead animals. Buzzards do not attack people or living animals, domestic or otherwise, and only eat the carcasses of those animals that have died of natural causes or by accident.
About the Author
Sherry Mitchell holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Middle Tennessee State University and has been writing for more than a decade. She is a full-time government reporter in Sumner County, Tenn.