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Perspective: Turkey Vultures And Pine Trees

Peter K. Burian

It started as a normal August day, when suddenly the sound of vehicles penetrated the peaceful morning cool. Soon the distinctive whirring and grinding noise of tree cutting came from the house behind ours. Probably just some limbs being trimmed, I thought.

Nope, it was a team of tree cutters, who began chopping down a stand of tall pine trees that lined the fence. There was noise all day, as one by one, the trees were felled. It was a slow process. First the limbs were removed, then the trunks were cut down in stages. As the trees slowly disappeared from view, the sky seemed to expand.

The following week, I learned that turkey vultures were at the center of the story. A flock of these enormous black birds has been a common sight in our neighborhood each spring, as they drifted in to roost in those very pine trees. Though fearsome looking, they only eat carrion and do not hurt people. Except maybe indirectly.

My neighbor explained that she had been sick with a mysterious and dreadful disease in spring that resulted in two hospital stays. Doctors told her it was a rare illness caused by the bite of a tick infected by a turkey vulture. That’s when the couple decided that the pines had to go.

When I asked what they would do with all the new space in their yard, my neighbor said they were thinking of planting some new trees. I said I thought that was a great idea.

I’m Deborah Booth and that’s my perspective.

Deborah Booth retired in Fall 2014 from NIU, where she was the director of External Programs for the College of Visual and Performing Arts.