Massive Swarm of Black Vultures Seen Perched Upon Neighborhood Rooftops in Ominous Viral Video

A video of numerous black vultures perched atop the roofs of several suburban homes is going viral, partly for the animals' seemingly strange behavior. Most of the birds stand very still while holding their wings outstretched.

The video, taken from a moving car, seems to have been shot soon after a rainstorm. The sidewalks glisten with rain, a grouping of clouds looms overhead and many vultures stand on the housetops with their wings extended, a common vulture behavior known as a "horaltic pose."

While the pose can look majestic or even threatening, it's actually something vultures do to dry their wings off and help their bodies warm up after it rains. The sunlight and wind can also help get rid of bacteria and parasites hiding in their feathers, according to Anne Hay, a bird handler at the Draper Natural History Museum in Cody, Wyoming.

The vultures would prefer to do this pose at a high point where the wind flow and sunlight are less likely to be blocked.

Vultures are also very social animals and tend to feed, fly and roost in large flocks together. A group of vultures is sometimes known as a "committee," a "venue" or a "volt." When flying together, they're referred to as a "kettle" and when feeding together on a dead animal, they're called a "wake," the same word applied to a gathering in observance of someone who has died.

vultures viral video Reddit houses perched wings
A popular video on the link-sharing website Reddit shows tens of vultures standing on the rooftops of several houses in a suburban neighborhood. In this image, four vultures perch on a limb together. Eisenlohr/Getty

Vultures are also known for having keen eyesight and sense of smell, being able to detect prey from more than a mile away while flying high overhead. When flying low enough, they can detect gasses produced by dead animals in the early stages of decay. As such, they can swoop upon and begin feeding on dead animals long before other scavengers detect them.

The creatures are also able to eat rotten meat and feces which contains bacteria and toxins that would kill other large animals if ingested, according to Gary Graves, an ornithologist at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History.

Vultures can do this because their digestive systems contain a bacterial cultural group known as clostridium. Clostridium—which includes microbes that cause botulism, tetanus and gangrene in humans—work symbiotically with vultures so that the large birds can get nourishment from rotten flesh and waste, according to Keith Bildstein, director of conservation science at Hawk Mountain, a group dedicated to protecting birds of prey.

The extremely acidic stomachs of vultures are also capable of killing deadly bacteria. However, the vomit and feces of vultures are also notoriously stinky and even destructive.

In August 2019, black vultures made a couple's Florida vacation home uninhabitable after vomiting and defecating all over the property. The smell was reportedly "like a thousand rotting corpses."

In January of this year, vulture urine, vomit and feces destroyed a radio tower used by Customs and Border Protection in Kingsville, Texas. Vulture vomit is so acidic that it can burn human flesh on contact and corrode metal over time.