Vultures are taking over a Customs and Border Protection radio tower and disrupting communications by dropping too many feces

Hooded vultures wait for scraps of meat at Bissau's main slaughter house on November 26, 2019. - Tens of thousands of Hooded Vultures flock to the city of Bissau to in search of food left behind in heaps of garbage or around market areas.

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Hooded vultures wait for scraps of meat at Bissau’s main slaughter house on November 26, 2019. – Tens of thousands of Hooded Vultures flock to the city of Bissau to in search of food left behind in heaps of garbage or around market areas.
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Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP
  • A radio tower for the US Customs and Border Protection near the US-Mexico border has been plagued by vultures that roost there and drop feces, vomit, and even prey on the buildings below.
  • Around 300 vultures have taken over the tower in the past six years, Quartz reports, and have coated the structure with “droppings mixed with urine,” as well as corrosive vomit that eats away at the metal.
  • A CBP spokesperson told Quartz that the birds create a “terrifying and dangerous” environment at the workplace, and said there are anecdotes of them dropping prey from as high as 300 feet in the air.
  • The Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits killing the vultures, but CBP is planning to install a “viable netting deterrent” to stop the vultures from roosting in its radio towers.
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For a radio tower and surrounding buildings operated by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) near the Texas-Mexico border, vultures are no joke. Around 300 of the carnivorous birds have roosted in its radio tower, and are creating communications issues thanks to their corrosive vomit and feces.

Quartz reports that CBP filed a request for information that includes details about the problems the vultures have created at the radio tower, which is now entirely coated in “droppings mixed with urine” that have also fallen on the ground and surrounding buildings below, where people work and equipment is kept.

Furthermore, a CBP spokesperson told Quartz that workers have anecdotes of the vultures dropping prey from as high as 300 feet above, creating a “terrifying and dangerous” work environment for the past six years.

black vultures

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fernando sanchez/Shutterstock

Vultures regurgitate a corrosive vomit as a defense mechanism that can kill bacteria on their legs but also eat away at the metal radio tower, making it unsafe for maintenance workers to climb it and reducing the tower’s lifespan.

Large groups of vultures also smell like corpses – the species is known, of course, for feeding on dead flesh, or carrion. Undigested bones and fur can be found at the base of where vultures roost.

But CBP can’t kill the vultures, as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act made that illegal in 1918. Instead, the agency is searching for a “viable netting deterrent” to stop the vultures from roosting on the radio tower. CBP told Quartz that it’s working with the Fish and Wildlife Agency, the USDA, environmental experts, and the Texas State Historical Preservation Officer to find a solution that doesn’t harm any of the vultures.

The agency also says there are no nests or baby birds in the tower. There are plans to clean and repair the radio tower before installing nets by August, before the natural heavy roosting cycle begins in the fall.