There Goes the Neighborhood

I walked into my bedroom this morning and there, through the glass door to my deck, was a big bird staring back at me. Big bird. Not the fluffy yellow one whose voice hasn’t changed yet, this was a big gray and black sucker with an insolent stare. Darth Turkey. And behind him was another one, equally non-endearing. I’m thinking, “Nature is supposed to be afraid of humans,” but this guy didn’t blink. I went and got my camera and took a picture. With a flash. He didn’t care.

I went and got a better camera and took two more. He moved to the deck rail so I could get his better side. I think he and his pal sneered. It was disconcerting. And threatening.

So I e-mailed the first not-very-good picture to this friend of mine who’s usually very up on death. He was a Green Beret. Danger, if not his middle name, is at least something he nods at in the street. So I sent him the picture and said, “What is this?” He e-mailed back, “I think it’s a crow.” Right. It’s a forty pound crow. A crow on steroids. A crow that ate its Wheaties. I’d forgotten that he was a Green Beret from the Bronx. Nature kicks his ass regularly.

So I e-mailed another friend of mine who not only lives in the country, she wrote a novel in which the hero was an ornithologist. Or whatever you call a bird guy. She wrote back, “Looks like a turkey vulture. Charming creatures. Yours don’t have red heads, tho, which the adults do. Maybe you’ve got TEENAGE turkey vultures! The worst. Watch out for graffiti, vomit in the yard, mailbox bashing, condoms strewn all over. Damn hoodlums.”

Scientists. I’m surrounded by scientists. But I’m starting to think she’s right, they’re teenage vultures. Which leads me to wonder, what the hell are they doing on my deck? Do they know something I don’t know? Are they out there talking in ROMAN CAPS like Death in the Terry Pratchett books? “SHE’S GONNA GO ANY MINUTE,” they’re saying to each other. “PASTY FACED AS ALL HELL. SHE’S NOT GONNA LAST THE NIGHT.”

Meanwhile my pal keeps writing me. “Oh yeah, and they pee on their legs. I love that about them. They throw up when they’re scared, so they can fly lighter. I’m sure part of what they throw up lands on their feet. But they pee on their legs on purpose. They’re just so darn cute!” Now I know why nobody eats vultures. I don’t see anybody gathered round the table, fighting over the drumstick.

So now I have The Birds of Doom on my deck, peeing on their legs and throwing up–not while I’m watching, but they will– strewing condoms and bashing my mailbox, waiting for me to die. Unless they’re crows on steroids. And you wonder why I haven’t blogged lately. Between my neighborhood and my friends, I’m afraid to make a move.

If anybody out there knows what these things are, and they’re something BETTER THAN VULTURES, let me know. If they’re something worse, leave me with my illusions of mailbox trashing, leg-peeing carrion eaters, please. It’s been one of those headline weeks— Adorable Aging Dog Goes MIA, Returns to Grateful Owner; Epic Battle With Collaborator, “Why Do We Do This? Contrite Combatants Say; Glowing Toxic Blue Mold Consumes Basement, Bleach Saves Day and Health of All–and I don’t want it to end with “Giant Winged Mutant Alien Life Forms Carry Off Romance Writer, Film At Eleven.”

Really, I’ll take the teenage vultures.

72 thoughts on “There Goes the Neighborhood

  1. Jenny. Jenny. Are you still there Jenny?

    They look like terrible monsters to me. I think they might be teenage vultures too. Or they are simply wild turkeys. They look more like that to me. Shoot one, cook it and see if it is edible. Wild turkeys are apparently a little tougher meat but good tasting. Get that friend with the killer pinky to come over and take a shot.

    Good luck with it. /;)

  2. god Jenny, that was funny. “I’d forgotten that he was a Green Beret from the Bronx. Nature kicks his ass regularly.” *snort* thank you.

    when the teenagers look like they’re about to go Death on your ass, send up the CB signal. someone will rescue you, i swear. (though, if this rescue falls on me your going to have to distract killer thug 1 and killer thug 2 till the plane gets me to Ohio. but i’ll come).

    oh, don’t worry. teenagers- even the vulture kind- are lazy.

    don’t go outside without pepper spray. remember, you have some whacked-out fans awaiting your books.

    green: qbblha: quietly, Bob borrows lunch, has asparagus.

  3. Wow! Those are some scary birds, Jenny. At first glance they looked like turkeys to me. It’s hard to tell how big they are. Some kind of buzzard perhaps?

    I’d probably stay in the house until they fly away if I was you. Do they fly?


  4. Isn’t there a black bird of some kind that’s the Binky of the Death of Rats and has long conversations with Susan as he tries to explain that she’s got to step up to the plate and harvest some souls while granddad has his midlife crisis? Maybe it’s that bird, and you’re the one who’s supposed to talk in CAPITAL LETTERS while you fill in for your long-lost anthropomorphic relatives.

  5. Word is out that Agnes has a couple of birds in it and they’re auditioning for the collage. You need to be more specific in your casting call. You know, add a little descriptive prose, throw in a little info dump. Better do it fast before the penguins show up.


  6. *snicker* But I have to say, I’d be scared as all hell to go outside with VULTURES there. EEK! Time to get out the pellet gun… or the BB gun… or the 9 mm *G*

  7. Well, eeewwwww (yes,I know that doesn’t help). Those things are honking huge and remind me of the Canadian geese who used to live on the pond behind my old apartment. Size of small dogs and had no fear.

    Maybe the storms that rolled through OH earlier this week destroyed their home and they are just lost. That’s it, just lost. They’ll meander away soon.

    Here’s hoping the teenagers find a chick and head on out to do that thing they do.

  8. Jenny, they are weird looking birds. Hard to tell what they are but if you open the door, scream Boo and wave your hands they leave.

    Sorry you are having such a headline week. But glad your dog came home.

    If they were Mutant Alien Life Forms, their eyes would glow. So you are safe.

    Sounds like you need Maui and drinks with little umbrellas. Maybe you can find some in Atlanta

  9. Not wild turkeys. I’ve seen wild turkeys and they aren’t that healthy looking. In fact wild turkeys don’t at all resemble the hand tracings we used to draw in grade school every November. I’m here to tell ya folks that if the pilgrims were relying on wild game its no wonder they went hungry that winter.

    I haven’t seen vultures that up close before, but… yeah that was my first thought. They were too big for anything else. on the bright side, Jenny, they don’t look hungry. In fact they appear awfully well fed.

    Um … are all the pets accounted for?

    “… a Green Beret from the Brons. Nature kicks his ass regularly” *snort* Good one, Jenny.

  10. I just discovered you.. and just the picture of those nasty pre-historic looking vultures would have earned you a link. But your writing was brilliant, your humor magnificient… and I go on and on.

    Needless to say, you’re linked.

  11. I get bears in my backyard. Much cuter- but have the potential to eat me. I’m pretty sure these two couldn’t eat you. Possibly peck at you in a Hitchcock Birds moment but think you could take them.

  12. You realize, of course, teenagers like to hang out at the mall….got any sales going on?

    Kind Captivating Year. Giant Amphibian Zipper.

  13. Relax Jenny. It will be okay. If I recall my Jungle Book correctly, they’re saying something like this:

    Buzzie: Hey Flaps, So what we gonna do?

    Flaps: I don’t know, what’cha wanna do?

    Buzzie: Look Flaps, first I say “what we gonna do?” then you say “I don’t know, what’cha wanna do?” then I say “what we gonna do” then you say “what’cha wanna do” Let’s DO something.

    Flaps: Okay. *pause* What’cha wanna do?

    This will last a while, and then if you’re lucky, you’ll get treated to a lovely barbershop quartet number. So no worries, right?

  14. Turkey vultures. Cooooool. I grew up in Nature and regularly kick it’s ass – or at least point my hunter husband in its general direction. Seriously. I grew up in look-out-the-window-and-see-a-bear-on-a-regular-basis Nature.

    The only place I’ve ever heard hand gun fire (outside of a gun range) was in the Bronx. Now that’s scary.

    I’m sorry you’re having such a crappy week. I would say look at the bright side, your dog came back and bleach took care of the nasty blue basement mold but (unlike Bob) I don’t have a death wish. Point me in the direction of the of the tequila and lime and I’ll make you the best margarita you’ve ever had. Hell, after a week like that I’ll make you a pitcher.

    Angie Office Wench Cherry

  15. I checked with a friend who is an amateur ornithologist. She thinks they are black vultures.

    Bad news for Jenny as the Latin name is Coragyps atratus, “a crow like black vulture”. Maybe the former Green Beret won’t see this.

  16. Teenage Vultures. I have boys. That statement made me thing of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. LOL

    Let’s hope these are not Teenage Mutant Ninja Vultures! Although, since the TMNT came from some kind of goo in the sewer, maybe these vultures came from the blue mold? ;o)

    I hope you have a better weekend!

  17. Good grief. I read this post and just about did a spit take on my work computer. I’m sure that would go over well.

    Reason for request for new computer, monitor and keyboard: Shot Diet Coke through nose by reading illegal post on unauthorized website using company property.

    Reason for cancellation of request: employee approved for termination.

    I think it would be safest all around if I read the rest of these at home.

  18. Definitely some attitude with those birds. I agree with the vulture hypothesis – but the nice thing about that hypothesis is that, unlike turkeys, I don’t think vultures are apt to return much, unless you leave a lot of dead animals around. And they DO wait ’til the critters are dead, so you’re good.

    I think Sarah Caudwell’s The Sibyl in her Grave has a main character who keeps vultures.(sorry, I looked it up – ravens) Not the sort of woman you would want to emulate, but a very fun book, nonetheless. I have this vague sense of some vultures in fiction or animation, but am not coming up with it. Certainly Terry Pratchett could do them justice.

    Sorry ’bout the rest of the week!

  19. I forwarded this to a friend of mine because it was funny, and she’s into birds, and this is what she emailed me:

    “You should tell her they are Vultures probably Turkey Vultures. No need to be scared of them. She should be honored, very few people will ever get that close to a vulture as they are skittish creatures because they have no self defense. Unless trapped and then they will bite. Their heads are bald because they eat carrion and the bugs on the carcass can get on their heads. Feathers would give the bugs breeding ground. So when they are done eating they sit in the sun to kill the bugs. They pee on their feet to keep cool. Vultures represent LIFE in my religion, they are honored for this. With out Vultures to eat the dead we would be over run with disease, bugs, sickness, and all sorts of plagues.

    For her to have been accepted by these beautiful creatures means she has new life coming to her in one way or the other. Just a Shaman’s point of view.

    Morning Owl”

  20. Following a brief internet search, I agree with the consensus that the creatures are vultures. And here’s an interesting note from Wikipedia:
    “A particular characteristic of many vultures is a bald head, devoid of feathers. This is likely because a feathered head would become spattered with blood and other fluids, and thus be difficult to keep clean.” What a clever strategy, I just hate when I get blood spattered in my hair.

  21. lori: yeah, but if they’re Disney animal version of Robin Hood instead of Jungle Book, you’ll have more

    “Did you hear something?”


    *arrow hits the sheriff*

    “Whoops. Sorry sir.”

    you know, but in vulture speak.

    btuda: sorry to hear you lost your job. maybe next one they’ll figure out keeping employees in Jenny is all good.

  22. i know its just me, but they kind of look pretty. (i was re-watching The Lion King last night. it puts me in a all-animals-are-gorgeous mood).

  23. Jenny,

    Don’t be worried..I think.

    My office actually had a couple of them hanging around our office (one teenager and one grownup). They were cute in an ugly sort of way and we named them Fred and Wilma. They never attacked anyone, however they did swoop down close every now and then when someone was entering the office. And occasionally they flew into the windows.
    Haven’t seen them in a while now, I hope they’re okay.

  24. I wouldn’t have called them pretty…but that’s just me I guess.

    Moot is okay isn’t she?

  25. Interesting comment Morning Owl, I had heard that before. Maybe Jenny’s going to be a Grandmother….

    We call them Turkey buzzards, but it’s the same thing, I think. Orthinologists will soon be gathering in Jenny’s backyard setting up blinds and specialized photo equipment because it really is rare to see them.

    Now if a white buffalo starts eating her grass…..

  26. Jenny, if they get into your bathroom, I can say that you have rocs in your head.

    I sent an e-mail with a link to your site to the proprietor of a website on vultures. Hopefully he will be able to give you a definitive answer.

    Perhaps you’d better stick to the Brand X window cleaner that leaves streaks, so they won’t fly into the glass.

    Just count your blessings. Around here coyotes have been known to come in through the Arcadia doors and try to drag off small children.

    Never mind Jenny–are the MOLES safe?

    djeopw — Do Jenny’s eagles openly provide wickedness?

  27. I’ve seen turkey vultures near my home in suburban Northern CA. They sure look like an adolescent version of the real thing.

    If you drive up behind an adult, they look like a turkey from the rear but there is that characteristic ugliness about the head.

    I’ve only seen them munching on road kill. I assume there is none of that in your yard. Maybe a human adolescent will recklessly drive over a senile squirrel a few blocks away from you — that might get these teens to move on.

    Good luck (ever since Hitchcock’s the birds I freak out whenever I hear wings rustle),


  28. Stokes and Sibley, my favorite bird guide people, suggest that these are adult black vultures. Sibley says their voice is “limited to soft hissing and barking.”

    Apparently it’s possible for people and vultures to develop friendships of a sort– Gene Stratton-Porter, who lived in Indiana and did wildlife photography as well as writing fiction, quasi-adopted a baby black vulture (ugliest baby ever) which she named “Little Chicken.” For what it’s worth, I think you’re really lucky to have them come to visit.

  29. Okay, Tal, you can live. I thought you should be thwaped with a wet haddock for that rocs in the head pun (very clever btw) but that link redeamed you.

    Angie Office Wench Cherry

  30. Those are most definitely vultures. I’d go with the “this means new life” theory, it being the most positive one around. Perhaps you’ll get another dog? Or your health will miraculously improve and you won’t need regular blood-lettings?

  31. Well I’m going out on a limb here and suggesting not one but two Maltese Falcons. It’s been years since they’ve been in a book and they figure J&B can do them justice.
    Good one Tapianna

  32. tal said “Never mind Jenny–are the MOLES safe?”


    the site didn’t work for me, so that’s all you get. a snort.

  33. I think these are black vultures. Here’s a link – they look like your feathered visitors.

    But why were they on your porch … maybe there had been a dead animal nearby? Yuck. Just make sure they don’t start hissing, apparently that means they’re annoyed.

  34. When I checked out the vulture site, I picked black vultures, too; but then I read that their range is from South America through the SOUTHERN US, so I figured Ohio was too far north. But if Gene Stratton-Porter had one in the Limberlost, I guess it’s entirely possible.

    I can remember pictures of Jane Goodall and her family at home in Africa–her son had a pet vulture.

    fvtsreiw — Funloving vultures try singing really early in windows.

  35. Do you think it was the dead boby in your basement that attracted the vultures? Has anyone seen Bob lately?

  36. I am highly amused. We called them turkey buzzards when I was a girl in Kentucky and my grandma, who was the accepted authority on these things, insisted they were lucky if they landed on your house. Owls, however, fortold a death. Crows were change. I don’t remember the rest. She died when I was 18 and took a freaking library of folk info with her that none of her dumb decendants thought to write down.
    In this instance I hope the Turkey Vultures are indeed lucky. But forget being a grandmother or getting a new dog. I am wishing you a new man with hot monkey sex. Unless you’ve already got someone you’re happy with. In that case … hope you like the new grandbaby/dog.

  37. Author of book with bird-expert hero? Patricia Gaffney, Flight Lessons???

    Loved this book and all her others.

  38. I wonder if the vultures (Darth and Morticia?) are nesting.

    Jenny, it’ll be a race to see which ones get you first–Moot’s babies or D&M’s chicks…

    khcui — “Kill her [before she multiplies]!” CherryBombs urge Indy.

  39. Leah said…
    Do you think it was the dead boby in your basement that attracted the vultures? Has anyone seen Bob lately?

    Jenny has a dead Bob in her basement? Jeez. I know they had a fight, but Jenny … Moot is going to be so upset. And probably Deb too.

  40. MCB: not to mention Hannah.

    tal said “but then I read that their range is from South America through the SOUTHERN US, so I figured Ohio was too far north”

    maybe the body really, really smells. seriously, Jenny, did’t he ever teach you how to hide a body? you never just keep it in the basement. not unless it’s in a freezer. but then, considering Fast Woman, you probably know this already.

  41. Jenny, I heard from The Vulture Guy:

    Your friend has black vultures. They are cousins of the Turkey Vulture, and very commonly found in urbanized environments. These birds are not to be feared – In fact, they are extremely intelligent, playful, and fun to watch.


    Not unlike the CherryBombs, in fact.

    So congratulations! You don’t have a Doom–you have an entourage! How many people are going be able to show up at RWA attended by their personal vultures?

    Admittedly, they lack a certain glamor, but that needn’t be a problem: as soon as the various crafting CherryBombs have finished making eyepatches for Scope Dope, they can make little hoods for Darth and Morticia out of tiny little canary feathers dyed flamingo pink.

    I mentioned this to the Tigress, who objected that they’d get carrion all over the hoods. Which is why I didn’t suggest matching spats.

    ntrdzgps — Now Talpianna readily drives? Zaza’s Global Positioning System!

  42. Roger Tory Peterson says the range of black buzzrds definitely ranges into Jenny’s back yard and is “expanding”. The Golden Guide to Birds also shows black buzzards in southern Ohio. The key is if you see them fly. Teenage turkey buzzards are all gray and black, black buzzards have a big white patches on the underside of their wings.

    and for Orangehands: try this link:
    flamingo buzzard bait

  43. Thanks for posting the alternate version of the flamingo pic. Mine was copied from a copy on someone else’s blog, which is probably why it had problems.

    Speaking of expanding ranges, I understand you can now find armadillos in Kansas.

    sevgtf — See? Even vultures give Tal fun.

  44. thanks legal CB, for the site. must say i can’t tell if that’s a really big flamingo orgy or flamingo homicide (or would it be mingicide?) scene.

    does anyone else find it weird how many CBs (well, this is mostly cherries) seem to know bird people? that phrase “birds of a feather, flock together” keeps popping in my mind, which quite frankly can be disturbing.

    green: trins: it’s like twins for potato chips.

  45. Be grateful those aren’t eagles. I had 4 teenage baldies living in a tree in front of my house in AK a few years back, and my cat vanished. At least vultures don’t kill, they wait for Ma Nature to take her course.

  46. Hi Jenny,

    I don’t think they’re coming for the body in your basement. Black vultures have been following the road kill north up the highways for awhile. (so unless you’ve recently run someone over with a car…)

    And although they are ugly on your deck (and messy as I’m afraid you have already found out) I have to say they are beautiful when they fly.


  47. Global warming – I know, it’s a myth – is bringing southern species of birds, insects and plants farther north all the time.

    We have lots of wild turkeys in my back yard, all extremely
    healthy not to mention noisy. We have a tom that is really impresssive, probably about 35 to 40 pounds.

    We also have lots of vultures. I’d guess vultures based on the pictures, but I could be wrong.

  48. Why do I have the feeling that turkey vultures are going to show up in a book somesday ?

  49. Jill, it’s now official–they are black vultures, not turkey vultures.

    efozz — online version of Muppet bear

  50. Jenny, comments on the photos:

    Not that I want to defend Bob (perish the thought!), but the first, poorer picture DOES look rather like a crow; and if you aren’t familiar with your window, you don’t know the scale so can’t determine the size accurately.

    Second, am I correct in believing it’s a pic of one vulture and its reflection, rather than of both Darth and Morticia as the third one is?

    zyeglqc –vulture repellent manufactured in Poland

    (You know, I’m having so much fun thinking of definitions instead of sentences for these things that I’m considering changing the game. How do you guys feel about it?)

  51. Tal said … I correct in believing it’s a pic of one vulture and its reflection, rather than of both Darth and Morticia as the third one is?

    No, you can tell that the two figures are standing in different positions. Also, granting that we can’t see the whole door, that the bird in front takes up most of the width gives a pretty fair idea of its size.

    As to the game … what there were rules???? Huh. I think we’ve been playing both games all along, actually.

    ljvoxye: Its gotta be French for something, oui?

  52. We have turkey vultures in the Keys and they have red heads. Oddly enough, there is even a Turkey Vulture Society. More facts than anyone other than a true vulture connoisseur needs to know.

    The good news about your black vultures, Jenny, is that they’re smaller than turkey vultures. Bad news is that they usually travel in flocks. So, if you see four tomorrow and six the following day, your original friends are bringing their family to meet you.

    Vultures aren’t raptors like eagles and hawks, so they won’t kill the local cats and small dogs. They don’t carry off their prey. They stand on it to eat. (What? Like it was going to move after dying?)

    I, for one, have never subdued a chocolate bar with my shoe before ripping into it.

    igpgb: Ick! Gargantuan pair gray birds.

  53. I have nothing new to add to the identity of the turkey vultures. But it made me think of this joke.

    Two vultures are standing in line at the airport check-in desk. One of them has a suitcase, the other is holding a dead rabbit.

    When it’s their turn, they step up and hand over their tickets. The Check-in girl tags the first vulture’s suitcase. Then she points to the dead rabbit the second vulture is holding and says, “Are you checking that too?”

    The second vulture says, “No, this is carrion.”
    Please, please, keep the rotten tomatoes for my second act. =D

  54. i’m using this as a marker to see were i stopped reading, not to say anything about vultures. i know nothing about the birds except for that they circled overhead in a few movies. i’ve just been seeing crows and pigeons and one special case of penguins. and flies.

  55. One of my posts disappeared. I think the vultures didn’t want it generally known that they aren’t strictly carrion eaters.
    My neighbor and I watched one swoop down and grab a cat off her deck. They patrol the canyon below my house and grab up mice, feral cats and other small creatures.

    Of course, they’d rather not have to work that hard, but if they are hungry, they will. So, if you have small animals, keep this in mind.

  56. Anonymous said…
    One of my posts disappeared.

    I think you left it one blog below. In Jenny’s bug blog.

  57. Thank you.

    The only reason I remain anonymous is that whenever I try to enlist – the powers that be scoff. It just goes nowhere. Odd that.

  58. My father had about 100 birdfeeders in the backyard and I swear this really happened:

    Dad said, “Look everyone. There’s a hawk in the back yard. Look at how big he is! I’ve never seen one this big up close. Dear, where’s my bird identification book? I wonder what … kind … what’s he doing? Is he sick? Is he … OH MY GOD, HE’S GOT SOMETHING WEDGED IN THE FENCE! HE’S … HE’S EATING IT! DON’T LET THE KIDS SEE THIS! I THINK I’M GOING TO BE SICK! THAT’S HORRIBLE!”

    And he spent the next 30 minutes hosing off the fence and we barely touched the meatloaf that night. He still wonders why we call the backyard “Wild Kingdom.”

    Ah, fun times at the old homestead.

    qqquay: Great. Now I’m stuttering.

  59. When are we going to get more pics of Darth and Morticia? And perhaps of their nest?

    The pigeons in my roof have built a really crappy nest.

    bjgjfxh — But Jenny, good Jenny, foxes eXist happily.

    fxyzn — Foxes, eXcitedly yapping, zap nests.

  60. So, I looked up your crows on steroids (yes, I have no life. I know), and they’re definitely turkey vultures. Sorry. Look at it this way, at least they’re not circling over your house. Now that would be creepy.

  61. Anonymous, you’re too late at the fair. An expert who runs a website on vultures took a look and says they are actually black vultures, not teenaged turkey vultures. That’s an improvement.

    I think.

    eqcdo — Even queens call Doherty omnipotent.

  62. tal says “they are actually black vultures, not teenaged turkey vultures. That’s an improvement. I think.”

    at least until they start flying overhead….can you really improve from one vulture to another?

    btuda: great story. LOL.

  63. OH: As I posted above:

    Jenny, I heard from The Vulture Guy:

    Your friend has black vultures. They are cousins of the Turkey Vulture, and very commonly found in urbanized environments. These birds are not to be feared – In fact, they are extremely intelligent, playful, and fun to watch.


    Not unlike the CherryBombs, in fact.

    daotciz — Do act, Orangehands; Talpianna’s cleaning is eZy.

  64. Great post! LOL
    Divas sent me over for a look 😀
    yeah vultures. Glad everyone has cleared that up 😉 So my two cents that aren’t worth half a penny?

    Watch Mackenna’s Gold. A movie with…I think it was Robert Michum in it. The beginning is telling about a turkey buzzard in a really lovely song. (Yeah I got the point that they’re black vultures 😉 I’m just sharing 😀 ) Anyway great movie theme related 😀

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