When and why to discourage vultures
Do you have a neighborhood roost that is of concern? Wondering what to do about it?
Begin by asking yourself the following questions:
· What is the source of concern about these birds?
· Do they damage property or defecate on homes?
· Or are they simply roosting in a nearby wooded area?
Why are they in my yard?
It is first important to understand what makes your area attractive. This is not necessarily a food source. Vultures are highly social animals, and they prefer to roost in large colonies. Areas that are conducive to this include the stereotypical dead tree or trees, cell phone towers, and even rooftops or porch coverings. (Removal of such trees is not advisable for many reasons, ie: 1) these trees are often habitats for other wildlife, and 2) without the trees, the vultures may move to rooftops, a far less desirable situation.)
Turkey and Black Vultures hey are federally protected by the USFWS Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This means that their eradication by shooting is only legal if
a) nonlethal methods have been attempted, and
b) they have been identified as a true nuisance to the community (I.E. causing property damage, health risks, etc).
You will be happy to know that the feces of the turkey vulture contains strong acids that kill many of the bacteria commonly associated with bird feces. Because of their diet, these birds are able to kill harmful bacteria and viruses with their stomach acids, and halt the potential spread of disease from rotting carcasses.
When should I NOT discourage vulture roosting?
You must carefully consider the circumstances surrounding your roost before making the decision to discourage roosting in a particular area. If vultures are roosting in wooded areas near homes, but not causing property damage, you may decide to leave them where they are.
Why? Turkey Vultures exist in healthy numbers throughout the states. They have also adapted well to human presence. If and when they are successfully discouraged from a roosting site, they often move only a short distance. The nearest and next-best roosting site may turn out to be a home, office building, or shopping center, which would severely exacerbate the problem. Leaving them in a wooded area, where they cause minimal disturbance, is always the best solution.
If the birds are roosting over structures or in yards, or causing damage to property, however, read on.
To learn more about the vulture’s positive traits, and ways they can benefit your local environment, please contact the Turkey Vulture Society. In addition to education you, we may also provide you with pamphlets, a powerpoint presentation, and other educational materials that will help you to make your neighbors aware of the importance of these birds.
When SHOULD I discourage vulture roosting?
If your vultures are roosting on or directly above homes or other buildings, or are causing property damage, you should consider the following measures for discouraging roosting behavior.
Measures for discouraging vulture roosts:
(be sure you have read the important consideration above!)
Vultures roosting on or immediately above houses and buildings:
The best way to discourage vultures is to create an inhospitable environment. Before you resort to expensive or otherwise difficult measures, try simple deterrents. The following suggestions are listed in order of expense/ease, not necessarily effectiveness.:
1) Shake the trees
After the vultures have settled into their night roost at dusk, go out and shake the trees they are roosting in. Disturbing their comfort on a regular basis may encourage them to move elsewhere.
2) Make noise
Frequently run outside, clapping and shouting, or set off firecrackers throughout the week (if legal in your area).
3) Hang shiny, fluttery objects in the roost to frighten them away.
If you wish to try this, but the trees are too high, one way is to tie the objects (such as CD’s) to helium balloons, and release them into the trees where they will catch.
Note: This can backfire if your vultures are too curious and playful, as they have been known to be. After a while, the vultures may discover that the objects pose them no risk, at which point they will instead become fun toys. So it is best to initially accompany this tactic with noise or blasts from a garden hose, and to be careful not to hang these items somewhere that you would find to be a particularly undesirable secondary vulture roost.
4) Ordinary sprinkler systems (the kind that squirt high-powered jets of water)
If you can get a sprinkler jet to reach into the middle of the roost, and turn it on whenever they look like they are making themselves comfortable, you may find success.
5) Taut Lines
Vultures roosting on peaked roofs, rafters, and radio towers can be eliminated with the installation of a taut line. Wire or fishing line, stretched tightly 6 to 8 inches above the perching surface will make it difficult for the birds to land or perch comfortably. The line must be tight enought that the birds cannot weigh it down, and high enough that they cannot straddle it.
6) The SCARECROW ™
This is no ordinary scarecrow. It is a motion-activated sprinkler maufactured by Contech. It is the BEST means we have tested that has successfully deterred long-term problem vulture roosting. (For more information on SCARECROW, read the article printed at the bottom of the page).
Vultures roosting in wooded areas (“community nuisance”):
On the community level, vulture discouragement is often accomplished with periodic cannon shots, or other noise solutions.
KILLING THE BIRDS IS NOT A SOLUTION. Why? Dead vultures will create a very unsanitary environment, and will attract ground-bound scavengers such as coyotes and foxes, which would pose much more of a risk to your family. The carcasses might even attract a replacement population of new vultures.
And please keep in mind, there is NO way of poisoning a vulture without unintentionally targeting large quantities of other wildlife.
Unfortunately, having adapted very well to the growing human population, vultures are becoming more difficult to discourage from residential areas. This does not mean that their populations will rise to any dangerous level, however. Like all other wild animals, they are controlled by natural population fluctuations. If the birds are roosting in trees or on cell phone towers, it is best to leave them in peace. They are wonderful animals to have around, as they keep the environment clean and healthy. You will even find that they can be beatiful in flight, and fun to observe.
Article reprinted from March 2005 Turkey Vulture Society Newsletter:
FINALLY: A humane solution to problem vulture roosts!
Although most of us enjoy the presence of our peaceful vulture neighbors, it is not uncommon to find them roosting in places where they are less welcome.
The removal of natural habitat to make way for development has not negatively impacted turkey or black vulture populations. (In fact, with the expansion of roadways, these birds seem to have increased in number.) Where roosting trees are removed, vultures find that they are quickly replaced with rooftops and cell-towers: equally suitable
A moderate sized vulture roost can generate large amounts of “whitewash,” and, in some cases, vomit. We will not deny that these are valid concerns for the average homeowner. Throughout the years, residents and businesses have tried various methods of discouraging vultures from roosting on and around their buildings.
Scarecrows have proved ineffective, and noise deterrents bother the residents nearly as much as the birds. Firecrackers, water hoses, and all other methods tried thus far provide only a temporary solution.
The only seemingly “successful” mitigation measure has been the physical extermination of the vulture populations. In addition to being illegal in most states, this is simply a poor ecological practice.
A Turkey Vulture Society member who has been researching this problem for several years reports that he has finally discovered a successful solution to urban roosts.
Steve Kohl reports that a motion-activated sprinkler system seems to be very successful in deterring vultures from rooftop roosting.
This product, marketed as a deterrent for yard-invading animals, can be mounted on a rooftop with a simple bracket system. As Kohl reports, “if you can seal the connections properly, leakage doesn’t occur.”
One company that markets this product is Contech. They call the product “Scarecrow.” As soon as Kohlmoos installed his “Scarecrow,” his vultures disappeared. At last report, he had not seen them for 6 weeks.
You can visit Contech on the web at http://www.biconet.com/critter/sprinkler.html
~The Turkey Vulture Society