Buzzards That Wear Bells – What?

Belled buzzards

Ever heard stories about a buzzard that flew around wearing a bell? Here’s an old newspaper article detailing one such instance:

Belled buzzard story


My first introduction to belled buzzards was from Gary Carden’s book Belled Buzzards, Hucksters, and Grieving Specters: Appalachian Tales: Strange, True & Legendary. Since I first read about them-I’ve discovered belled buzzards have been seen in several states-Virgina, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, and Tennessee.

Most of the sightings or ‘hearings’ caused folks to believe the belled buzzards foretold death. One legend even tells the story of a belled buzzard harassing a man after he killed his wife. Finally the  man could take no more of the belled buzzard and turned himself in for her murder.

As I was researching the subject I found this explanation from Arkansas:

The link details a correspondence between folks discussing the phenomenon of the belled buzzards seen in Arkansas. The lady tells of her brothers bringing home a couple of buzzards to keep as pets. Their mother nixed the idea and made them let the buzzards go. Before turning them loose the boys tied bells on their necks. Makes me wonder if all the other belled buzzard sightings were the result of would be pets gone awry.

Have you ever heard of belled buzzards? I imagine it would be an eerie sound to hear one as it flew over the house.


This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig in October of 2009.


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  • Reply
    October 28, 2012 at 8:05 am

    love the stories sounds like a nice place to live wy wife n me really enjoy your music n songs thanks

  • Reply
    susie swanson
    October 27, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Never heard of this one on me.

  • Reply
    October 27, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Earlier this year my dogs had a
    big ole snake bayed in the yard.
    After I killed it, I took it to
    the lower edge of my lawn and
    layed it down. The next morning
    two huge buzzards were standing
    on that snake, dining. Talk about
    ‘raw head and bloody bones’, those
    things looked and smelled awful.
    God surely knew what He was doing
    when He made buzzards…they’re
    the vaccuum cleaner of Nature…Ken

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    October 27, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    I’ve seed more buzzards than heard them tinkling…
    The other day down at the town dump, there was a wake of buzzards stompin’ around. It was the county dumped, gaggy, squishy groundhog road kill they was after. The worst I ever smelt or seed!…In fact the stench and slop was so bad that the buzzards had clothespins on their beak holes and was a ‘wearin’ their BROGANS…!!
    There I killed two posts with one pun!
    Thanks Tipper,
    and everyone in the vicinity, please batten down the hatches!…Hope the storm stays way, way out in the ocean!

  • Reply
    October 27, 2012 at 11:24 am

    This is a mystery to ponder. Could it be more than just a local legend?
    In parts of northern Appalachia there is a legend of skeletons riding coffins down hillsides.
    Pet buzzards, for all their ugliness and smell, seem more plausable to me than racing skeletons!

  • Reply
    October 27, 2012 at 9:21 am

    I have heard of the death bell, but don’t think it is associated with buzzards. Old-timers tell about hearing a bell ring shortly before or after a loved one died.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 27, 2012 at 9:09 am

    I have heard my wife’s family talk about hearing death bells as long as I have been associated with them. It wasn’t until I was researching your re-post this morning that I realized it was “death knells” they were saying. It seems it is a phrase that has fallen out of fashion but describes a phantom sound one hears that predicts a death.
    See you’ve helped me find an acorn too!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 27, 2012 at 8:43 am

    I’ve never seen or heard of buzzards wearing bells but I know and have known plenty of old buzzards that wore yesterday’s brogans.
    I had thoughts of people releasing a belled buzzard to try to locate the remains of someone missing and presumed dead. Could it be a way to locate the bird once it ceased its circling and had commenced its gruesome consumption?

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    October 27, 2012 at 8:34 am

    I have never seen nor head of belled buzzards. It might be an early warning system for small animals that might be in danger of becoming a meal, like a cat wearing a bell to warn birds of their approach. This is interesting to say the least.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 27, 2012 at 7:39 am

    Interesting tale, we have always associated buzzards with death, but never heard of a belled one.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 27, 2012 at 7:28 am

    Never heard of or seen belled Buzzards. Sounds really spooky. I can see how it would make one think their maker has come for them.

  • Reply
    October 27, 2012 at 7:23 am

    Have not heard of belled buzzards, but enjoyed the post.
    (don’t know what happened that my computer started working again!!)

  • Reply
    Gorges Smythe
    October 27, 2012 at 6:53 am

    Buzzards would NOT be good pets. They barf when they get scared.

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