Buzzards Day – 15 March

The annual celebration of a bird whose circling overhead was a signal to the cowboys of old that a once living creature had met its demise seems strange to say the least. Yet, Buzzard Day is circled on the calendars of many dedicated Ohio residents who, once a year, eagerly scan the skies with binoculars watching for its return. For them this graceful, winged creature with its bald head and red beak signals, not death, but rebirth.
Turkey Vulture.jpg
The mid-March buzzard celebration is led by an ‘Official Buzzard Spotter’ on the Hinckley Reservation in the Cleveland Metroparks in Ohio in the United States of America. A large number of enthusiasts converge on Buzzard Roost at around 6:30am in anticipation of the bird’s return. Those for whom this is beyond the call of duty can still participate in the joyous celebrations by attending Buzzard Sunday for festive family fun that celebrates the return of this flying precursor to spring.
The legend of the annual return of the Buzzards (Turkey Vultures) to Buzzard Roost goes back nearly a century in Hinckley history. Legend has it that they were first attracted by the tons of butchering refuse and unwanted game left behind in the great Hinckley Hunt of 1818, but additional historical research among the records of the Sylvester Library of Medina uncovered an old manuscript by William Coggswell, proving that these vultures had made their home on Hinckley Ridge long before the white men settled west of the Cuyahoga River.
In 1957 a reporter from the Cleveland Press became interested in a claim by Metroparks Ranger Walter Nawalaniec. He told the reporter that he had personally observed the buzzards arrival in Hinckley each March 15 for the past six years and that his predecessor, the late Charlie Willard had kept a personal log of their arrival for the past 23 years. The reporter’s interest was aroused. He wrote in the February 15, 1957 issue of a Cleveland paper that longtime legend of the Hinckley Buzzards. He further predicted their return in exactly one month – March 15.
Excitement mounted as the month progressed. Naturalists, ornithologists and reporters repeated and embellished the original story and suspense mounted. March 15 arrived and so did the buzzards – who arrived right on schedule at 2 PM that day, a Friday. The news travelled fast and the weekend brought throngs of sightseers from all over Ohio and neighbouring states.
The town was unprepared for the 9,000 plus visitors that flocked there that year but by 1958 plans had been made to welcome the interested visitors.
The town proclaimed the first Sunday after March 15 as Buzzard Sunday. Forty-plus years later thousands of visitors continue to attend the pancake and sausage breakfast, hosted by the Hinckley Chamber of Commerce, at Hinckley Elementary School. Organizations from the town are invited to help and provide exhibits and information about their activities. Crafters and artists fill the classrooms with their wares. Many town volunteers assist in the Chamber with this annual breakfast.
The Cleveland Metroparks welcome visitors yearly on March 15 to the Buzzard Roost in Hinckley Reservation. With a traditional “Buzzard Spotter” the first buzzard’s time of arrival is clocked. The event is hailed as a sign of spring in the Midwest by all who attend.

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