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‘Buzz off!’ Buzzards causing a commotion in Montross

That’s what Montross officials are saying to a flock of an estimated 150 confused buzzards that have decided to stake claim to the downtown area of Montross each night to forage and roost, starting in the month of January.

Town manager, Brenda Reamy said they concentrate along the main drag of Route 3 making their rounds picking in dumpsters and scavenging anything they can find, generally ending up in the Old Courthouse area or behind the police station.

“They frequent the area behind the sheriffs department then move to the two radio towers in

town then circle back to Carrot Cottage and Saint James Church and then start over again.” Reamy told the Council at the January meeting.

When Council members asked why, Reamy replied, “There’s plenty of food here, they like dumpster food, and they go after food put out for cats and dogs”

The group of large black birds are made up of some buzzards and some vultures. The distinction is that vultures have longer necks. Major John L. Hoover and two wild life experts, John Turbanic and Dage C Blizt, came out and identified them as two different species. One they said had migrated from Mexico.

The trouble is the birds are far more friendly with humans than the humans can handle, and loud clapping or honking of horns don’t seem to bother them. In fact they hardly turn their heads when humans try to scare them off.

The town has two options; try to get scare them off with firearms noise makers just before they roost each night or to shoot a few of them and hang them upside down as a warning to keep the rest away.

Although the law protects migratory birds in Virginia, buzzards fall under nuisance species since they scavenge and sometimes destroy human property. The town is applying for a permit to allow them to kill a few of the flock. The town would then hang the dead birds upside down as a warning to the others in the flock.

Reamy said the wildlife experts told them these birds are hard to get rid of and killing a few to put on display is sometimes the drastic measure needed to get rid of them.

The specialists said they will eat windshield wiper blades, roofing, the tar seals around chimneys, canvas camper tops, and pool covers. The birds will also play with colorful objects such as umbrellas and window coverings.

Reamy noted to the Council that buzzards usually don’t roost in live trees and if they do, they kill them after four to five years of roosting. 

The experts have determined the birds to be a migrating flock, but the unseasonably warm weather and their newly found food supply has kept them ‘confused’!

One would think the birds know just what they are doing and it is the humans who are confused with their friendly manner and persistence to stay put.

The town wishes to avoid killing and hanging dead buzzards through out the town so the Sheriff’s Department began a nightly routine of shooting noise makers and streamers at the birds as they roost in the trees behind the sheriff’s office or on the radio tower behind the government center.

Investigator Jay Mitchell, who had the pleasure of shooting the first few nights, estimated that there were around a 150 birds to begin with. After the first night of shooting the number dwindled by about half, but throughout the week a group of roughly 25 stubborn birds have remained.

As of Monday, Major Hoover was confident the noisemakers have made a big impact on their roosting habits and seems confident the need to kill any can be avoided.

Residents can help by sealing garbage receptacles and taking in food meant for pets during the early morning hours and just before dark when the buzzards are foraging before their evening roost.

Linda Farneth

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