Today, when I walked out on the back patio with our dogs, I looked up and saw vultures circling overhead. It’s likely we have all seen vultures circling in the sky above us. Until today, I always thought they were circling over something dead. According to a piece from 2017 that I just read in the Huffington Post, that’s not always the case. You can see the piece here.
Growing up in Alabama, we didn’t even call them vultures. We called them buzzards.
Until I was an adult, I never saw a buzzard actually feasting on a dead animal. Back when I was a kid, they seemed more bashful. These days, it’s not unusual for me to see one enjoying a meal on the side of the road as I drive past, but I think they have become more brave over time. It always seemed they flew away as cars approached when I was younger.
Just because we didn’t see them actively dining, it doesn’t mean we didn’t have an idea of what they did. Maybe we had seen them on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom? I don’t know, but we knew they ate dead stuff.
So on a long, hot, summer afternoon in Brewton, Alabama, we could entertain ourselves when we saw buzzards flying overhead. Keep in mind I was under age seven when we lived there, so I know I was really young. I remember playing with the neighborhood kids and seeing buzzards flying overhead. Back then, of course, we didn’t have video games. We didn’t have smartphones. We had bicycles. And we had each other. We played outside…a lot. Sometimes, at dusk, we played “hit the deck.” We would run all around the front yard, but as a car approached on our street, we would all hide behind trees or fall onto the ground…lying flat so the passing car wouldn’t see us. I don’t know why we found it entertaining, but we did. And sometimes, when we saw buzzards, we played a different game.
I vividly remember playing a game with the buzzards. We thought, as children, that if we could lie perfectly still on the driveway, we would convince the circling buzzards overhead that we were dead. We could lure them to the ground by pretending we were dead. Morbid, I know. Of course, it never worked. I’m sure we smelled rather ripe after playing outside on a hot summer afternoon in south Alabama, but even that ripe, sweaty stench didn’t fool them. They never took the bait, so we never got to see a buzzard up close. It felt like we would lie there forever, but it was likely five or ten minutes before we would get bored.
Every time I see buzzards, I think of trying to lure them to the ground when we were kids.
And today, when I saw the buzzards circling overhead, I called one neighbor and asked if she saw any dead animals around her house. Nope. I texted my next door neighbor and asked him. He jokingly replied, “Maybe they were watching me trim hedges on top of the wall and waiting for me to fall.” And then he texted me again, saying, “Those are actually two hawks.” I felt pretty stupid. Did I even know hawks flew in circles like that?
And now I’m wondering if, when we were kids, were we trying to lure in buzzards that were actually hawks?!? Hawks hunt live prey. I guess it’s a good thing we all weighed more than twenty pounds!