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Two species of vultures, commonly called buzzards, are found in Kentucky: the turkey vulture and the black vulture. Both birds are scavengers—animals that feed on carrion (the carcass of a dead animal). The presence of these birds is a natural and necessary occurrence.
However, it is important to learn to identify one bird from the other, for one species is more destructive. Turkey vultures are larger than black vultures and have a bright red head at maturity, long tail and gray coloring extending the entire length of the wing underside. Black vultures, on the other hand, have a black head, short square tail, and a white patch only at the end of each wing.
Black vultures are more aggressive than turkey vultures, and they have become a serious problem for farmers and homeowners. These birds do not wait for food like the turkey vulture; they attack for food.
Cattle farmers in Carroll County, and around the Commonwealth, have reported black vultures attacking newborn calves immediately after birth by pecking the eyes and eating the calf alive. Homeowners across the state have reported black vultures destroying boat upholstery, roosting in buildings, and even damaging cars.
If you have a problem with this type of vulture, there are a series of steps that can be done to get rid of them.
The first involves exclusion. For example, one can install an electrified wire around the roof to deter the birds from perching. With cattle, exclusion refers to moving calving from the field to inside a building.
The next step involves scare tactics called pyrotechnics. Screamer-sirens and bird bombs are two common pyrotechnics used with a 15-mm launcher. Screamer-sirens produce an extremely loud noise after firing, whereas bird bombs explode similar to small fireworks. The latter requires a permit for use. Both frighten the birds away.
If the use of pyrotechnics becomes ineffective, residents can apply for a permit through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to shoot and kill the birds. Black vultures are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and it is illegal to kill them without a valid permit.
If black vultures are a concern for you, please contact the Extension office immediately at (502) 732-7030.
We can provide more information on how to get rid of the birds, where to find pyrotechnic tools, and help you obtain the permit, if needed.
Upcoming dates of interest
Nov. 17: First Aid and CPR Certification, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Carroll County Extension Office.
Nov. 22: Carroll County Cattlemen’s Association Meeting, 6:30 p.m., Carroll County Extension Office. The guest speaker will be Dr. J.D. Green, UK Extension Specialist in Plant and Soil Sciences, and the topic will focus on problematic weeds and control methods.
Nov. 28: “Common Equine Parasites and A New Strategic Approach to Deworming” talk by Dr. Mary Rossano, UK Equine Professor, and information about the upcoming 2012 Kentucky Equine Survey, 7 p.m., Grant County Extension Office.
Christin Herbst is the Carroll County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. Call her at (502) 732-7030 or send e-mail to Christin.Herbst@uky.edu.