Loudoun Group Decries Leesburg Vulture Control

Various measures will be undertaken in an attempt to move the birds; Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy say population swell is part of the birds' natural rhythm.

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, in response to the Town of Leesburg’s plans for vulture control, is criticizing plans to help relocate the birds, who they say play a “critical role as scavengers and sanitarians”, helping to recycle dead animals and sanitize the area. 

The LWC’s comments come after Leesburg released a statement saying beginning today, Monday, and continuing throughout the week, "officials will use pyrotechnics, lasers, and other dispersal devices that are noise and light makers to move the birds nightly just prior to dark." 

In addition to the pyrotechnics, lasers and other noise devices that will be used to move the birds, officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture also may kill and hang dead birds in trees as a means of deterring birds, according to Leesburg Police Department spokesman Lt. Jeff Dube.

Town spokeswoman Betsy Fields said late Monday morning birds would only be killed as a last resort.

“They say it scares the birds away but from what we have researched, it does not. It’s absolutely barbaric. The birds do move on and disperse on their own towards the end of winter,” said Nicole Hamilton, president of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy.

Dube said the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Service Program, along with the Leesburg Police Department, will begin the removal process between 4 and 5 p.m. Monday, continuing every day this week.

The area includes Mayfair Drive NE and Plaza Street NE. 

The USDA was called in to handle the project because vultures are a protected wildlife species.


Dube said officials have dealt with the issue before, but have not seen a vulture problem this large since 2007, when they had to manage the population. 

They are currently estimating the number of vultures to be between 200 and 250 in one area of Leesburg.

“The vultures are destructive, they can strip a tree, break branches, destroy property. Their urine has a high acidity that will remove paint,” Dube said. “The high amount of birds involved is a health hazard and creates a bad smell which will last until spring."

But, the LWC strongly disagrees with the tactics being used in Leesburg and is hoping to educate the public on the role vultures play in the environment. 

“Vulture numbers swell every year from late fall to early spring.  It’s part of their natural rhythm,” Hamilton said.

Related Content:

Officials Plan to Move Vultures from Leesburg

What's the Noise You Hear in Leesburg?

Never miss a thing with Leesburg Patch's free daily online newsletters. 

kathleen fergus January 07, 2013 at 01:33 PM
Where are they moving them to?
Karen Graham January 07, 2013 at 01:42 PM
No one really knows where the vultures will go, they are just hoping that the 200+ birds will disburse to other locations and not stay together in one place.
Greg January 07, 2013 at 02:01 PM
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002073/ - I have seen these birds very close to Leesburg Elementary School in the early evening and the surrounding homes. I agree that something needs to be done. While the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy says that the vultures are play a critical role as "sanitarians" - I have to ask if they are aware of Histoplasmosis? Histopla fungus grows as a mold in the soil. You may get sick when you breathe in spores produced by the fungus. Soil that contains bird or bat droppings may have larger amounts of this fungus. My father who lives in the South was simply cleaning his yard a few years back when he came in contact with the fungus. He breathed in the fungus caused by bird/bat droppings and a month later he almost died. With over 250+ large birds taking residence in a highly populated area close to a school, there is a significant health risk to the elderly, children, and people with compromised immune systems. I am in full support of these measures and hope they will succeed.
Tina Driskell January 07, 2013 at 02:41 PM
Your argument about Histoplasmosis is a clasic clase of scare tactics. Unless you can site scientific evidence linking Histoplasmosis to vulture droppings your argument is nothing more than speculation. I could speculate just as easily that the increased nitrogen compounds in the area will stimulate plant growth. The amount of oxgen in the area will be hightented, leading to health benefits for the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. What we need here is science, fear mongering.
Jonathan Erickson January 07, 2013 at 02:51 PM
I like Tina!
Erin January 07, 2013 at 03:36 PM
I completely agree Tina! Why do some people always want to sterilize and eradicate all wildlife? Leave the vultures alone. I don't mind washing my car or stepping in bird droppings on occasion. Living amongst these magnificent creatures more than makes up for any slight inconvenience they might cause.
Greg January 07, 2013 at 05:59 PM
Folks - I have nothing to gain by stating some of the dangers around having 250+ birds taking residence in a community a few miles from my house. I am just stating that (like getting in your car every day) there are dangers associated with a large number of birds dropping their waste in a confined area. Why do you think we flush our waste down a toilet? Because having it sit around in open containers in our house, work, in public, etc. would not be healthy. I saw what histoplasmosis did to a family member of mine and this was in an area that did not necessarily have a high population of birds/bats. It was something totally unexpected and not even known to us at the time. Thank goodness for good doctors and a second opinion or my father would be dead today. So - human vs. bird? I would gladly pick my dad and his health over a bird any day of the week. Just me.
laughing in Leesburg January 07, 2013 at 06:03 PM
Maybe the birds know that down town Leesburg is dying and are waiting to clean it up.
Greg January 07, 2013 at 06:04 PM
Auburn University provides some additional detail regarding the dangers of vulture droppings: http://www.aces.edu/forestry/awdm/birds/vultures.php "Vulture droppings are also unsightly and smell unpleasant. They may be loaded with fungus and parasites that carry histoplasmosis, encephalitis, salmonella, meningitis and other diseases."
Linda Shotton January 07, 2013 at 11:14 PM
We should all be very happy that we have carrion eaters clearing our county of decaying carcasses. That said, however, I do not think that the town proper of Leesburg is rife with said carcasses. Pretty much when an animal dies in my back yard (thanks in part to my jack russell terriers), I gather the remains, wrap in plastic, and hope the CSI guys have a cold when they come to get my fragrant trash. Turkey Buzzards are an essential part of our rural landscape. They are not, however a boon to our neighborhoods. What the police and animal control experts will be doing is making Leesburg an inhospitable location for roosting. No birds will be harmed by lights and firecrackers. They will choose to roost in a more quiet environment - likely where there are tall trees and open nearby fields. Their droppings can oxygenate a forest floor vs the hoods of our neighbor's cars.
LeRoy Flanders Hughes January 08, 2013 at 01:26 AM
Okay, lemme get this straight: someone actually thought that hanging dead birds in trees will scare away carrion eaters otherwise known as vultures? Or are they just trying to give them a buffet? And regardless of how well you hang those dead birds, between the wind, the vulture's efforts to get at the hanging carrion, and simple decay will cause those dead rotting birds to drop to the ground - after emitting a horrific stench. And before you say, it's only a smell, you may want to do a search on what a smell is made up of: little particles of the actual object emitting the odor so when you smell apple pie, you are actually breathing in apple pie and when you smell dead bird..... And why not just send some city employees out with paint guns filled with water soluble paint. A little pop pop on the tail feathers and Mr. Vulture says goodbye and the water soluble paint is when the paint ball hits a car, building, or street.
G Rober January 08, 2013 at 01:41 AM
Vultures have no place being in my relative's backyard in Leesburg. They come by the hundreds every day and leave an unmanageable mess. They have not been able to have a garden in their backyard or use their yard for any family activities due to white feces everywhere. I was there this afternoon as the USDA began their work. The pyrotechnics used scattered the birds and they moved to Leesburg Elementary School area only to return and were faced with more pyrotechnics. This went on for a few times and finally the vultures were last seen heading north out of Leesburg to a more rural area. To all the buzzard lovers-this strategy is working so far and I am glad the USDA will return all week. And at least the trees aren't being cut down to eliminate the birds and thereby reducing the tree canopy in Leesburg.
Mary Quigley January 19, 2013 at 02:38 PM
There are currently at least a dozen in my Centreville backyard, and i have never seen them here before!


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something