Apparently every year during the vulture migration the small town of Vinton, VA is plagued by vultures which stop to rest there. Well, when I say "plagued," we're only talking about 100 vultures or so. Coming from a part of the world where literally tens of thousands of swans and snow geese stop to rest during the winter migration, you will have to consider me unimpressed.
Nevertheless, Vinton is tired of the vultures because they "are loud and dirty and tear up trees." One suspects the same could be said for Vinton's human residents, but okay.
This year, Vinton police officers fired guns in the general area of the vultures, and most of them were scared away. Vinton cannot actually shoot the vultures because, like all non-hunting species, vultures are covered under the Migratory Birds Act.
The Migratory Birds Act basically says that you can't go shooting at random birds without a special permit. It was put in place with exactly this sort of scenario in mind: one small town gets annoyed at a particular bird species, shoots them all, and the next thing you know, there are no more vultures.
I was not able to find out what species of vulture is pestering Vinton. However, all North American vultures lack a voice box (technically an organ known as a syrinx) so the best they can do is grunt and hiss.
I suspect that turkey vultures are passing through Vinton, but if Vinton officials can't even be bothered to get the basic facts straight about vultures, I wonder if they are seeing vultures at all. It could be eagles or storks or literally any other large bird.
Vultures have a bad reputation, but they are fascinating animals. Vultures are one of the few bird species which have a sense of smell. They are able to detect minute concentrations of ethyl mercaptan, which is a chemical given off by rotting flesh. They also are almost unique in the bird world in that they cool themselves off by pooping on their legs, a trait they share with storks. And when threatened, they defend themselves by barfing up a half-digested crop full of rotting meat, which is not only revolting, it also stings their attacker if it gets in the eyes.
The plan of the Vinton town officials is to obtain a permit to shoot one vulture, and then hang it up in public to scare away the other vultures. Vinton's officials believe that this will work, because "they don't like to be around their own dead." I don't know about that. But what I do know is that vultures are not loud, and they deserve to follow their ancient migratory paths just as much as other, cuter birds.