Your Place: What to do about turkey vultures hanging around

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Our question of the day is this: Why are there so many turkey vultures running around South Jersey?

These actually are turkey vultures, Cathartes aura, not the black vultures that have reportedly been moving up to these parts from areas farther south recently.

Turkey vultures are sometimes called "carrion crows" (they eat dead things) or buzzards, but the result is the same: They climb on car roofs and porches, and they get sick and leave droppings just about everywhere.

They also are called "nature’s garbage collectors" and may have been attracted by the carcasses of rabbits and squirrels left by the numerous foxes that have appeared here in the last year or so.

The Audubon Society’s field guide says the vultures, unlike other birds, have a sense of smell that allows them to detect carrion odor.

The creatures don’t actually kill their dinner, but wait to see if there are leftovers, making them more like some humans who get peckish while watching late-night television.

The droppings produced by turkey vultures and other varieties can harm or kill trees and vegetation, some sources say, but they do not cause disease.

Turkey vultures are protected under the Migratory Bird Act of 1918 and killing one can result in a $15,000 fine, according to federal sources.

Having adapted very well to the human population, they are becoming more difficult to discourage from residential areas, according to the Turkey Vulture Society (https://turkeyvulturesociety.wordpress.com).

This does not mean that their populations will rise to any dangerous level, however, the society says. Like all other wild animals, they are controlled by natural population fluctuations.

"If the birds are roosting in trees or on cellphone towers, it is best to leave them in peace," the society urges on its website.

The site also offers suggestions for deterring them.

My recommendation is not to feed them — the same tack my mother took with the neighborhood kids when I was growing up.

Do it once, and they start showing up with their families.