Northeast has changing leaves, South Florida has vultures

Signs of fall abound in South Florida, they just aren’t what you traditionally think of when autumn is mentioned.

While the northeast has the changing colors of leaves, South Florida has vultures.

They are the original snowbirds and were here before seasonal residents flocked to condos dug into South Florida’s shores.

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Turkey vultures roost and soar near the Southern Boulevard drawbridge on Thursday morning, December 10, 2015. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

Turkey vultures roost and soar near the Southern Boulevard drawbridge on Thursday morning, December 10, 2015. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

The first ones I notices showed up last week, soaring on the thermal air currents that rise from our steaming earth and perching in trees in sometimes gruesomely large groups.

Vultures migrate from northern realms when the weather there turns chilly.

While a vital component in clearing carrion, black vultures also are predators, attacking and eating small animals, including newborn cattle, piglets and goats.

Vultures circle above Palm Beach on Sunday, Oct. 23 2016.

Vultures circle above Palm Beach on Sunday, Oct. 23 2016.

They also, for reasons unknown, have an affinity for rubbery materials and are known to pull windshield washer blades off cars, eat the rubber around windows, destroy outdoor furniture and pull the rubber splines from pool enclosures.

“They are a very important component of a healthy ecosystem, but vultures are one of those birds that do create a lot of hassles,” Michael Avery, project leader for the National Wildlife Research Center at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Gainesville told The Palm Beach Post last fall.

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In a 2005 federal report on the management of damage by vultures in Florida, the scavenger bird topped the list of troublemaking fowl with 680 requests for assistance from wildlife services between 1993 and 2003. That’s more than six times higher than the second-ranked nuisance bird — the duck.

The report estimated that vultures caused $1.4 million in damage in the same period — everything from chewing up vehicles to leaving excessive fecal droppings.

These black vultures were hanging out atop a roof and chimney vent atop a home alongside Oakridge Drive early friday morning, watching their fellow vultures tear apart carrion on the lawn below. Photo by David Spenccer/The Palm Beach Post

These black vultures were hanging out atop a roof and chimney vent atop a home alongside Oakridge Drive early friday morning, watching their fellow vultures tear apart carrion on the lawn below. Photo by David Spenccer/The Palm Beach Post

A decade ago, Palm Beach County officials were so concerned that vultures at the landfill might cause car accidents on nearby roads that a sharpshooter was brought in to reduce the population. The move was controversial and ended soon after it began.

Sometimes just the mere presence of vultures elicits calls for help.

“People see a large group of birds perched on their fence for no apparent reason and it bothers them,” said Ricardo Zambrano, a wildlife biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said last year. “They’re big, and not as attractive as other birds. They can be scary looking.”

But they’re also not going away until March, when they start to head north again.

“They’re thriving and they like living with people,” Avery said. “People don’t necessarily reciprocate.”

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