Trainer: Buzzards help clean environment

Published 9:53 am Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Andrew Hopkins of the Southeastern Raptor Center at Auburn University had already heard about the buzzards Andalusians love to complain about having downtown.

The buzzards are actually vultures, Hopkins said, and do a masterful job of keeping the environment clean.

Hopkins spoke to students and Rotarians in Andalusia on Tuesday.

“They are constantly cleaning up dead animals,” he said. “They are slow, and can be as loud as they want because their food is already dead.

“They aren’t very strong, quiet or fast,” he said. “But they have a great sense of smell.”

Turkey vultures are loners, while black vultures travel in groups. Typically, black vultures follow turkey vultures, which have a stronger sense of smell. Then they bully the turkey vulture into letting them have the food.

“They have a bad reputation as a dirty bird,” Hopkins said. “They are actually very clean.

“They hang around carrion all day, but they have a longer beak, so they don’t have to put their heads as far in a cavity.”

Their stomachs are amazingly strong, he said, and can digest decaying matter that would make humans deathly ill.

“Their stomachs are so strong, they can break it down and digest it,” he said.

The birds can’t sweat, but wet their legs with urine to help cool down.

“It’s like washing your hands with sanitizer,” he said.

“Andalusia is probably very clean,” he said, in reference to the birds that roost in the downtown area. “They eat dead animals, ticks, maggots and flies. They do a great job of cleaning up the environment.”

He said vultures can live to be 30 or 40, and are really smart.

“They show an ability to solve problems,” he said.

Pretty much the only thing a vulture won’t eat is another vulture, he said.

“It’s like they know if he died, he must have eaten something really, really bad.”