by Lesley Scott
Most of us think buzzards are scavengers, but they are considered to be raptors.
|An Unusual Pet
I thought Ernest, my alligator, was an unusual pet to keep. But my best friend, Beverly, had me beat by a long shot! I met her when we both worked at the Charles Towne Landing Animal Forest in the early seventies when I was just a teen, and we've been attached to each other ever since. We shared a great love for animals.
I helped Beverly out in her taxidermy shop by skinning 'coons, foxes and bobcats. The name of her farm was dubbed "Ammons Ark," because our veterinarian once asked if she expected a flood when he noticed how many animals she kept.
My husband and I bought a small farm just down the street and we often traded animals among ourselves. We spent every Christmas together and had several pets in common. My famous Charleston Egg Nog made with Wild Turkey 101 was always a hit.
One Christmas Day I rode Frank, my elderly mule, down her tree lined driveway. I had to do a double take on what I saw. A large black buzzard was perched on a skinned deer head outside of her taxidermy shop. Always used to seeing new animals at the Ark, this one surprised me a bit. The big black bird fluffed her feathers and looked directly into my eyes. Her gaze was sharp and I could understand how these wonderful birds can see for a couple of miles.
"Where on earth did you get that buzzard?" I asked Beverly in as normal a voice as expected. The black bird hopped over to see what we were doing. The sun glinted on her smooth feathers, making her appear an iridescent blue. I always thought that buzzards were beautiful animals. They have such fun, gliding on the air currents.
"Oh," she answered in her usual matter-of-fact tone, " That's 'Buzz.' My friend, Teresa, gave her to me because she was killing her kittens. I guess you already know that buzzards and vultures are raptors and will kill for their meals if needed. But eating carrion is easier. At least I don't have to take my leftovers to the landfill," she laughed.
Buzz suffered a badly healed broken wing and couldn't fly. Still, she could flap around and jump a few feet off the ground. I offered the side of my hand with my fingers closed and she stuck her beak in between my thumb and forefinger. I felt exhilarated, having such an animal show me affection. Her eyes were fiery brown, and I could easily imagine her soaring a mile high, seeing everything on the ground.
Buzz liked to spend her spare time with Beverly's small pack of four rescue dogs. Sometimes she would throw sticks in the air and try to catch them with her sharp beak. Who says animals don't have fun? She obviously enjoyed her new home, especially the scraps from the taxidermy shop.
That silly bird loved to perch on the railing of Beverly's front porch at night. It is natural for buzzard behavior to defecate on her legs. Beverly explained, "She poops on her legs because it is believed the urea sanitizes them. The dead animals she dines on are full of harmful bacteria. Sam [her husband] gets real mad at her and I have to hose down the porch every morning." Beverly said she didn't mind, it being a natural behavior.
One spring day in 1979 I drove over to do my animal skinning and noticed that Buzz didn't greet me by chasing my car. She wasn't hanging around with the dogs, either. "Where's Buzz?" I asked, fearing the worst.
"I am so sorry to tell you this, but she was hit and killed by a car. Though I have enough animal scraps to feed her, she insisted on trying to eat a road kill," she said in a subdued tone. I could tell she was grieving over her loss. She felt upset because she and Buzz formed a special relationship.
It has been over thirty years since we lost Buzz, and I keep a framed picture of her roosting on the hood of my car at my desk. I love to share this story with anyone who will listen. Buzz will always exist in my fond memories of animals passed.
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