A US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) radio tower near the Texas-Mexico border has become home to some 300 vultures, which have coated the structure’s entire surface, both inside and out, as well as the ground below, in “droppings mixed with urine,” according to a request for information the agency issued to vendors this week.
A smoothly-functioning communications network is essential for CBP officers to do their jobs. The agencies under the aegis of the Department of Homeland Security, of which CBP is one, have suffered from radio problems in the past.
The birds in the Texas tower have been roosting there for more than six years, a CBP spokesperson told Quartz, adding, “They will often defecate and vomit from their roost onto buildings below that house employees and equipment. There are anecdotes about birds dropping prey from a height of 300 feet, creating a terrifying and dangerous situation for those concerned.”
As a defense, vultures “regurgitate a reeking and corrosive vomit,” explains a factsheet from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). This kills bacteria on the birds’ legs, but also eats away at the metal in radio towers, reducing the life of the structure and making it unsafe for the maintenance workers who climb it. Vulture droppings can also carry a range of diseases such as histoplasmosis, salmonella, and encephalitis.
Large groups of vultures smell “like a thousand rotting corpses,” one homeowner told a reporter last August after a vulture colony set up shop at a South Florida country club, forcing the family from their $700,000 vacation home.
The scavenging species fe