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May 19, 2016

Philly demolishing 'creepy' row home invaded by turkey vultures

L & I: Bird gang was scaring people on West Philly block

The city of Philadelphia will tear down a row home that community members say became overrun by turkey vultures, a scavenging buzzard species whose evolutionary advantage is detecting gases produced by decomposing animals.

"The house was chosen for demolition because it's classified as imminently dangerous, not because of the birds," said Karen Guss, communications director for the city's Department of Licenses & Inspections, "although the birds certainly didn't help."

Gus said community members recently began placing calls to L & I to complain of the birds at 465 N. 50th Street in West Philadelphia. In bunches, turkey buzzards are known as a committee.

"Neighbors said the birds were lurking around, being creepy and scaring people on the block," Guss added. "They were very pleased to find out it would be demolished."

It's not yet known what will come of the lot, which had been vacant before the turkey buzzards took up residence there. Guss said the area has several abandoned properties and houses in poor condition. Once turkey buzzards shuffle into the picture, it may be a good time to consider redeveloping some of the vacant lots.

"When I first got calls about vultures, I actually thought residents were referring to people looking for scrap metal or something like that," Guss said. "Then I realized they meant birds. There's always things like raccoons and other common Philadelphia wildlife. Possums, mice, that kind of stuff. This is the most exotic animal we've come across in recent memory."

A spokesperson for the Animal Care & Control Team of Philadelphia said the organization typically only handles injured wildlife, but when ACCT sent a representative over to the property to look into the status of the turkey buzzards late Thursday afternoon, they were nowhere to be found and the house had not yet been demolished as scheduled.