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Buzzards Return to Roost in Cleveland Suburb

March 16, 1992

HINCKLEY, Ohio (AP) _ Mission San Juan Capistrano can have its cute little swallows. Here, it’s the annual return of buzzards that draws late winter crowds.

More than 100 buzzard fans whooped to welcome the first one back Sunday morning, marking the tradition said to have begun in 1818.

Spectators braving 35-degree temperatures gathered around drum fires at the Buzzard Roost at Cleveland Metroparks. Mark Wevear of Indianapolis brought his mother to celebrate her 57th birthday.

″My son wanted one old buzzard to meet another old buzzard,″ Barbara Wevear said.

Ranger Roger Lutz, the official buzzard spotter, confirmed the first sighting at 9:24 a.m. Eight more of the scavenger birds were seen by 9:47 a.m. The buzzards disappeared into their roosts, where they’ll live until November.

Last year, the first buzzard didn’t show up until 2:30 p.m.

According to local lore, buzzards first came to Hinckley in 1818 after the Great Varmint Hunt, when the Cleveland suburb’s residents killed animals that attacked farm stock. The birds gathered to feast on the carcasses when they thawed in March.

Capistrano swallow-watchers meet in California every year on March 19. People began flocking to this community of about 500 residents on March 15 in the late 1950s.

″This is a special occasion. People all over the world know Hinckley because of the buzzards,″ said Jerry Harris, a local veterinarian who wore plastic feet and a buzzard-head hat.

Joyce Lattimer of Cleveland says the nation’s much-maligned city has a place in its heart for buzzards.

″Only Clevelanders would have a sense of appreciation for such an ugly bird and have enough of a sense of humor to celebrate their return,″ she said.

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