Brownielocks and The 3 Bears
The History of Buzzard Day



The Day

Let's begin by saying that there's been some confusion on when Buzzard Day is.  Because the turkey vultures return to Hinkley, Ohio every March 15, some claim that this is really Buzzard Day.  However, back in 1957, a few members of the Hinkley Chamber of Commerce got together and agreed to have a pancake breakfast festival at Brongers Park on the first Sunday of Spring.  This was the first Sunday after March 15th!  The Chamber of Commerce declared that Buzzard Day because of the Spring celebration.  But, because the popularity of these turkey vultures returning to the town every March 15th has become so wide-spread and popular, and creating a lot of tourists  who come to watch them specifically on March 15th,  it's on March 15th that Buzzard Day is observed and said to be its official day.

The History & Festival

Although the buzzards have been coming to Hinkley for over 150 years, it wasn't until  February, 1957 when Robert Bordner, a writer for the Cleveland Press, got word of it.    Walter Nawaleniec, a Metroparks patrolman, said that he personally has seen these buzzards arrive in Hinkley every March 15th for the past 6 years.  And, that his deceased predecessor, Charlie Willard, had also seen them arrive annually on March 15th and  kept his own personal log on this for 23 years.  After Mr. Bordner's story was issued in the Cleveland Press, ornithologists, naturalists and even other reporters spread the word what was going to happen on March 15th.  So, what happened?  Well, right on time, the buzzards arrived in Hinkley, Ohio.  And, news spread even faster now that they were in town.  Over 9,000 visitors arrived, which the town was not prepared for at all.  The people were a bit embarrassed that they weren't prepared for all this attention.  So, this is when the Chamber of Commerce met and planned their pancake breakfast on the first Sunday of Spring, which was one week after the buzzards arrived.  Every year, the town has an annual Buzzards Fesitval.

But, the buzzards are popular outside the area as well.  Cleveland radio station WMMS used the buzzard as its logo and mascot.  They called themselves, "The Home of the Buzzard" for many years.



Why do they come to Hinkley?

Turkey buzzards' heads are featherless and red.  Because of this feature, they resemble wild turkeys.  Another name for them is carrion crows ( Cathartes aura) and are scavengers that live on dead animals.  They have very good eyesight and soar through the sky on big updrafts.  They are considered Mother Nature's garbage collectors.  And, they can live up to twenty years!

In the summer they are in Hinkley, Ohio.  In the winter they can live in the southern part of the United States to all the way to South America.  Hinkley's combination terrain of open fields, rocky ledges and forests is considered an ideal nesting area for these buzzards.

Because they are scavengers, it's also believed that the buzzards first chose this area because of the massive amount of butchered refuse and unwanted game from the Great Hinkley Varmit Hunt of December 24, 1818.  The hunt was organized to help rid the area of predatory animals that were killing local farm stock.  475 men and boys lined up along the town's perimeters and slowly moved inward, in one of the largest drives in history.

William Cogswell, who was one of the first white settlers in the area in his manuscript wrote in 1810 about "vultures of the air at the gallows of the Big Bend in the Rocky River where the Wyandotes had hung an Indian squaw for witchcraft two years earlier."  Because of this manuscript, it proves that the buzzards have been arriving in the area for many, many years and not just since 1957 as some state.



Return to March Observances

Sources of Information:

"America Celebrates" by Hennig Cohen and Tristram Potter Coffin
Visible Ink Press, Detroit, Michigan  © 1991

Cleveland MetroParks - Cleveland



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