JEDBURG — A vulture in your backyard is inconvenient enough. Suppose it nests and lays eggs under the kids’ play table and bathes in the pool.
The Ouzts’ black vulture has made herself so much at home, they gave her a name: “Birdie.” She is so comfortable with the arrangement that when they call her, she turns to look.
But she’s a problem. Leanna and Robert Ouzts have a young child and a toddler grandchild scampering around. The neighbors also have a toddler. They worry about what could happen if a blunt-taloned raptor with a 5-foot wingspan rears up to defend its hatchlings. They’re worried about the poop in the pool.
The thing is, they aren’t allowed to get rid of her. The federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it illegal to mess with a nesting vulture, and violations carry a steep fine.
As long as Birdie is nesting, they can’t even get a depredation permit allowing her to be killed. And they don’t want that anyway. Their woodsy Pine Hill Acres neighborhood is an enclave of birds and squirrels. They like it that way.
“We don’t want the bird harmed,” Robert Ouzts said. But they would like to use their pool.
That might not happen soon. Nesting and raising vulture hatchlings could take a big piece of the summer.
“We cannot authorize moving the nest in this situation,” said Tom MacKenzie, spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast region.
“Once there is an active nest, it cannot be disturbed,” said Jim Elliott, of the International Center for Birds of Prey.
Vultures tend to nest alongside stumps at the edge of woods, he said. The plastic play table apparently was a close-enough habitat for Birdie and her mate, who shares egg-sitting duties.
She also sat briefly on a red plastic ball, then laid her eggs next to it. Vultures tend to place colorful objects around eggs, some experts said, evidently to distract predators.
And the Ouztses made one big mistake, MacKenzie said. They fed her.
“We don’t recommend that,” he said. The bird is now habituated.
Elliott will work with the Ouztses to fence off the nest area, but other than that, it’s nest and let be.
“Vultures are pretty determined to stay with what they have,” Elliott said.