Vultures swarm over Berks County borough

February 28, 2013 6:03:33 AM PST
There's a real problem going on in Berks County.

They are not swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano. They are not those scary, deadly birds of Hitchcock's avian masterpiece "The Birds." They are vultures coming home to roost in Wernersville, near Reading.

Some say there are scores, while others say hundreds.

Neighbors say they stink.

"I can smell it when I'm outside of my house. The odor can get pretty bad," resident Gale Geesman said.

On winter evenings, vultures crowd into a corner of this tiny borough.

First they roosted in one tree, but now some hunkered down on rooftops, even swing sets.

"It's becoming a health issue because there're droppings all over the place. There are a lot of little kids in the neighborhood and they can't even go out and play," resident Barry Kline said.

Vultures are dirty and smelly and their droppings can harm trees, but they are federally protected because they play a key role in the circle of life.

Vultures feed on dead animals that could otherwise be breeding grounds for disease, so it's illegal to kill them, but they can be chased away using a kind of psychological warfare.

"They are telling us they would come and hang a dead carcass of a vulture and hang it somewhere in those trees or that vicinity and supposedly that would deter them from that area and move somewhere else," borough treasurer Debbie Pierce said.

Actually, officials learned today that the carcass is just a plastic look alike, but with the help of noisemakers, real Vultures can be frightened away.

The plan to send the birds packing will be discussed at next month's borough council meeting.