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Tip of the Month

Vandalizing Vultures
in Everglades National Park

December 2009 - January 2010

black vulture vandal

Anhinga Trail in the Florida Everglades has always been a premiere location for bird photography. After our recent trip to Antarctica, Mary and I had the brief opportunity of photographing in the Everglades for a morning, before we started our long drive north to home. As we pulled up to the entrance fee station, we noticed a posting warning tourists about the vultures, and the fact that they were federally protected. We didn't think much of it, and didn't read the sign thoroughly, but we did think it odd.

When we pulled into Anhinga Trail at Royal Palm, we immediately noticed the abundance of black vultures around the parking lot. Years ago, when we used to do Photo Tours here, getting close to a vulture for a nice shot was a challenge, and a trophy. That would no longer be the case.

Within minutes I observed groups of two to eight birds flying onto and clambering about on the roofs of vehicles, or perched on the hood of the various cars and trucks. There, the birds began pecking at the rubber linings of sun roofs and doors, and the rubber of windshield wipers. I watched one bird that, within minutes, worked at a windshield washer wiper blade until it had completely removed the rubber from the blade arm. Afterwards, it simply ignored the strip of rubber as it lay upon the car hood.

One vulture perched upon my rental car and hopped to the gap between the front and passenger (rear) door, and within seconds it had snipped a beak-sized triangle of rubber in the liner, at the gap between the two doors. Before we risked walking on to the trail, I wrapped my wiper blades in bolts of cloth - a pillow case and a hankerchief that I had in my luggage, and I hoped that would deter the birds. Fortunately it did, and we suffered no further vandalizism while we photographed along the trail.

I asked one of the maintenance workers nearby what people were doing, or what they could do, to protect their vehicles from the vultures. He said the only solution was to TARP YOUR VEHICLE, wrapping it in plastic or canvas. The woman working at the gift shop there said the vultures have ruined her car, and she doesn't bother fighting them now.

I mention this because the vultures could not only cost you an expensive repair bill on your personal vehicle, or real problems with a rental, but also they could present a life threatening situation. When we left that day it began to rain, heavily, and had someone's vehicle have had its windshield wiper blades destroyed without the notice of the driver, one could drive into heavy traffic and into a storm, only to find that their windshield wipers were useless.

If you visit the Everglades, consider bringing along some type of covering large enough to cover your windshield and any exposed rubber -- either on the doors or around the sun roof. The vultures were down at Flamingo as well, and although I didn't see them damaging vehicles there, the signs were present. I was saddened to see this problem developing, as it created a siege mentality for me, and i didn't, and couldn't, enjoy my few hours on the Trail as fully, worrying that my vehicle might be being damaged in my absence. Beware!

Previous Tips, July 2009 onward

Use a Short Lens for Depth of Field
Get Professional Help!

Mini-Molar Bag
Access America Trip Insurance
Bogen Base for Macro Work

Archived Tips of the Month
prior to July 2009
Most of my original Tips of the Month for the last several
years are available through this link. The 'look' is from my
original web site, although if I ever have enough time I might redo these pages to match the new web site But that's not a high priority.