Nature goes nuts: the great 1994 buzzard attack

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Lynn O’Hara-Yates with a buzzard killed by a warden hung as a deterrent. It didn’t work. (AP photo)

tafford, Virginia resident Lynn O’Hara-Yates watched in horror from her kitchen window February 10, 1994 as more than 10 huge black buzzards (also known as vultures) landed and surrounded a lone duck on her frozen pond. They formed a circle around the helpless Muscovy Mallard, their giant 6-foot wings raised in an impenetrable defense. The duck scurried in a panicked circle, with nowhere to go. Then the buzzards reached in one at a time and literally pecked the terrified duck to death. They swarmed and devoured it.

It wasn’t the first one. Earlier that day six other ducks had been killed and devoured by a ravenous flock of 40 of the vicious birds. Soon, dogs and even cattle and horses were being threatened by a growing flock of over 200 black vultures in the Fredericksburg suburb. “I’ve never heard of them being aggressive,” Wheaton College biology professor told the Associated Press of the peculiar behavior.

It became the great vulture attack of 1994.

This especially aggressive flock defied the accepted status of the bird as roadside scavenger when it inexplicably became savagely homicidal. When O’Hara-Yates tried to rescue one of her ducks a week later, a vulture swooped down within a few feet of her head. The birds attacked again the following day as she filmed them circling over children getting off a school bus, forcing them to scurry for cover in their parents’ cars.

“It’s like something out of (Alfred Hitchcock’s) ‘The Birds,’” the 42-year-old flight attendant said. “They’re scary as hell.”

The birds had started showing up the previous November, roosting in trees, seemingly watching and waiting. Soon, their numbers grew and curiosity turned to apprehension. State wildlife specialists scoffed at residents’ concerns, assuring them that the huge birds wouldn’t harm a living thing. Besides, they warned, the birds were federally protected and could not be killed without special permits.

Then the attacks started. O’Hara Yates soon lost 8 ducks, all of them stripped to the bone. Jeude Barrett’s cat, Stripe, was grabbed by the tail and carried 100 yards in the air, hissing and flailing. Stripe survived, but a vet was needed to stitch up four talon holes in his body. Dogs and horses showed up ripped and bleeding from the crazed flocks that showed absolutely no fear.

O’Hara-Yates said a game warden advised her that she would be safe feeding the animals on her 14-acre property, but, he warned, “Whatever you do, don’t lie down.”

A warden then killed one of the birds and hung it upside down as a deterrent to other birds. It didn’t work (pictured).

By the end of February, the vultures suddenly dispersed and the attack was over. The incident showed up a year later in Ripley’s Believe it or not.



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Anti-death penalty advocate, cultural archaeologist, “American Grotesk” historyteller and author of 11 books. More at

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