Buzzards cause political buzz

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Feeding time: Turkey vultures swoop down on Willey Street in Westmere around 9 a.m. and again around 3 p.m., when resident Patricia House puts out raw meat for them. House started feeding the birds in the fall when they were wounded, and plans to stop feeding them once the snow melts.

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Neighborhood watch: Some residents say turkey vultures, like this one, have made a home in their Westmere neighborhood, and they are unhappy about the messes the droppings are making. Turkey vultures eat carrion but do not kill animals. 

GUILDERLAND — Turkey vultures that have made themselves at home in a Westmere neighborhood, to the dismay of some residents there, should by gone by the time the snow melts, according to the woman who has been feeding them.

In a letter to the Enterprise editor this week, a member of the Guilderland Republican Committee asserted that “dozens” of vultures were living in the neighborhood, and that Supervisor Kenneth Runion, a Democrat, was unwilling to help resolve the problem.

Patricia House, who lives on Willey Lane and began feeding the birds in the fall, maintains that there is no problem to resolve.

A long-time town employee, now retired, House once headed up dog control in Guilderland and is still active helping animals through Guilderhaven, Inc. The garden at the town’s animal shelter is dedicated to her.

She started putting out raw meat for three turkey vultures that, she said, had been injured by pellet guns wielded by neighborhood kids.

“These wounded birds couldn’t even balance on a tree branch,” said House. “There was no way they could have gotten their own food.”

The turkey vulture, called such because of its resemblance to wild turkeys, is a scavenging bird, almost exclusively eating carrion, or road kill; it does not kill animals to eat.

“They are not posing any threats to people or pets,” said House.

But, she said, she has had angry neighbors on her doorstep, complaining about the birds’ presence, mainly because of the amount of bird droppings on their houses and cars.

Supervisor Runion said there is nothing he can do about the turkey vultures. He consulted with the town’s police and animal control departments, and Police Chief Carol Lawlor contacted the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

Rick Georgeson, a spokesperson for the DEC, said that what House is doing is not illegal.

“It is technically only illegal to feed deer and bears,” said Georgeson. “There is no prohibition against feeding birds.”

There would be no difference, he said, between putting out birdfeeders for blue jays and feeding the vultures.

“It sounds more like a neighbor dispute,” Georgeson said.

House said she hopes to end the dispute soon.

“I do resent some of the comments from the neighbors,” she said. “I respect their properties and I don’t want to cause them any grief.”

She said, out of three birds she originally began feeding, only one remains; she is unsure whether the other two died or relocated. Other turkey vultures do appear from time to time when she puts out meat, she said.

When the snow melts and the weather warms up, she plans to stop putting out food.

“I had planned to stop as of March 1,” she said. “The weather is still so cold, though, that I am going to wait until the snow melts.”

House said she expects that the birds will stop visiting once they realize they are no longer being fed.

“I take pride in my property, too,” she said. “I don’t want the birds hanging around forever.”

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