Every March 15 (or thereabouts), the buzzards return to Hinkley, Ohio. Also known as turkey vultures, these large, ugly carrion-eaters are common from Canada to Cape Horn at the tip of South America. They seek warmer climate during the winter, but always return in large numbers to Hinkley, just south of Cleveland, on or close to the same day every year.
Hinkley residents have made the most of this phenomenon; they’ve built a festival and a small tourist industry around it.
We have our own avian attraction here in Washington County. It seems every winter that crows in huge numbers converge of the campus of California University of Pennsylvania. But unlike Hinkleyites, Californians are less than infatuated by the noisy convention taking place in treetops and on roofs.
The feathered fiends and “the unpleasant and unsanitary conditions they create,” as described in a university news release, have made some administrators raven mad.
The university once again has hired pest control technicians (dare we call them scarecrows?) to roust the cawing critters with laser lights, noisemakers and a mist made from grapes. In an article in this paper Wednesday, Dave Miller, an exhibit coordinator for the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, was quoted saying the offensive measures would likely be less than effective. “Once established I think the deterrents might only inconvenience the crows, due to their tenacity,” he said.
Sometimes the efforts managed to move the crows to a wooded area close to the Monogahela River, but last year the birds decided to head downtown. Borough residents may not have been too pleased, but maybe they should think of the avian invasion as an economic opportunity similar to Hinkley’s. They could promote the annual crow confab and attract the curious and their spending money.
For a month or so, the borough could change its name to “Caw-lifornia.”