Buzzard Day History

The legend of the annual return of the buzzards (turkey vultures) to Buzzard Roost in the Cleveland Metroparks 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, who as a youth with his uncle, Gibson Gates, were the first white men to set foot in the township in 1810. This manuscript told of their expedition from Bath and Richfield through Hinckley, and of finding the "vultures of the air" at the gallows at Big Bend of Rocky River around the foot of the ledges where the Wyandots had hanged a squaw for witchcraft two years before. This indicated that these turkey vultures had made their home on Hinckley Ridge long before the white men settled west of the Cuyahoga River, and it moved their occupancy back into the midst of the Indians legend.

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, news traveled fast and the weekend brought throngs of sightseers from all over Ohio and neighboring states.

The township was unprepared for the 9,000 plus visitors that flocked the township that year but by 1958 plans had been made to welcome the interested visitors.

Carl and Catherine Neu, turkey farmers, stepped in to see that Hinckley would be better hosts that year. Edward Spatz of the HInckley Chamber of Commerce and others joined in the effort.

The township 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 township are invited to help and provide exhibits and information about their activities. Crafters and artists fill the classrooms with their wares. Many township 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" (for many years retired ranger Roger Lutz and now the chief naturalist Robert Hinkle) 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.