With the coming of spring, many people tend to celebrate the warmth of the season in a variety of ways. For some folks, spring brings with it an interesting (albeit also rather quirky) pastime: bird watching.
Certain extremely avid birdwatchers, however, are not interested in just any birds. These special bird watchers are particularly enthralled by watching the buzzards return on their long trip back from their migration to the south during winter. The commemoration of this day is Buzzards Day, a day that celebrates the long return of these birds to their nesting grounds during the beginning of spring each year.
Buzzards, often found in North America, Scandinavia, and even the Mediterranean, are a species of vulture protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 in the United States. Vultures, such as buzzards, are protected because removing birds such as scavengers can have cascading impacts within an ecosystem and may even have a negative effect on human health.
For the most part, the particular buzzards related to this day make their homes in the border areas of Canada and the northern United States during the warmer months, and then tend to migrate in colder months to warmer climates in places such as South America and the Caribbean.
History of Buzzards Day
Because turkey vultures are also migratory birds, Buzzards Day is specifically celebrated for their return near the beginning of spring every year. The holiday is specifically celebrated in the state of Ohio. In particular, the northeastern Ohio town of Hinckley, of all places, has a local history connected to these often under-appreciated scavengers.
In 1957, Walter Nawalaniec, a patrolman for Cleveland Metroparks, told reporter Robert Bordner of the Cleveland Press and local historian, Miss Eunice Morton of Richfield, that he had tracked the birds’ appearance on this very same date in March for the past six years. While he knew that the buzzards returned at around the same time each year, he thought it uniquely interesting that they came back on the exact same calendar day–even during Leap Year!
As the news spread that year, over 9,000 visitors came to see the buzzards fly into the area the following spring. It is now believed that these birds have been coming to the state of Ohio over the past 150 years. The buzzards seem to like the area due to its rocky ridges, open fields, and forests, which makes it an ideal place for breeding for these birds to breed.
Buzzards Day fans tend to enjoy the day by having hot pancakes and sausages, a standard breakfast food, which is a tradition set forth by the Chamber of Commerce as a way to greet these birds and celebrate the first coming of spring.
While the breakfast meal now overlaps with the March 15 return of the buzzards, back in 1957 it was originally set to occur on the Sunday after this date. However, due to the popularity of tourists, this Chamber of Commerce breakfast meal now happens on Buzzards Day. But if there’s some question about it, it also might not hurt to have a sausage and pancake breakfast on both days: March 15 and the Sunday following!
How to Celebrate Buzzards Day
While this is an admittedly unique day, the good news is that it’s an easy one to be the first among friends to know about. Buzzards Day might just be quirky enough to become an annual tradition of celebration for the most unexpected groups of people!
Come up with unique and creative ideas or consider these ways to celebrate Buzzards Day:
Have a Traditional Buzzard Breakfast
Celebrate Buzzard’s Day by eating some pancakes and sausage for breakfast or brunch. Stay in and cook a yummy pancake breakfast at home, or go out to a local diner that serves a traditionally American sausage and pancake breakfast.
Join the Buzzards Festival in Hinckley Ohio
Interested folks can also participate by taking a mid-March road trip to the Hinckley festival to see the buzzards migrate back up north from their long trip. Head over to the rocky Hinckley Reservation near Hinckley Lake in the morning or early afternoon on Buzzard Day. Other festivities in the small town include a bird hike, skits and plays, crafts, displays, songs and contests all centered around the buzzard theme.
Learn More About Buzzards
If you’re interested in learning more about the buzzard, then take the time to research some engaging facts about these scavengers and share them with your friends.
Here are some fun facts about buzzards to get started with:
This type of bird has a bald, red head and dark feathers. Its feet are more reminiscent of chicken feet than of other scavenger birds.
Turkey vultures have an extremely strong sense of smell, allowing them to detect a food source from more than a mile away, which is rare in the world of birds.
As scavenger birds, these buzzards are the only ones of their kind that don’t actually kill their own prey. They rely on their sense of smell to find a source of food. But they are rather particular and will not eat food that has been dead for more than 12-24 hours.
The nickname “buzzard” for turkey vultures may be a bit misleading. While using the same word, the turkey vultures celebrated on Buzzard Day are considered a completely different species than the buzzards that are found in Britain and Western Europe, as those buzzards are actually predatory and kill their own prey.