QUESTION: I’ve noticed lately in the courts section of Monday’s papers that under “judgments” there are a lot of “cases dismissed for want of prosecution.” Does this have anything to do with the new district attorney administration not having enough evidence and dismissing cases brought by the previous administration?

ANSWER: Absolutely not, but I understand that it could be confusing. The “judgments” we publish each Monday are for civil cases — lawsuits that people or businesses have filed against other people or businesses. The district attorney prosecutes criminal cases, and the “judgments” listing has nothing to do with those.

I spoke to Elisha Calhoun, a deputy clerk in the District Clerk’s Office, who explained that the phrase means the judge in the case dismissed it because it’s just been sitting because the person who filed the case hasn’t taken any action to move it forward. Often those are cases filed by an individual without the help of an attorney. The judges periodically take action to get those cases off their dockets after they’ve been sitting for a while.

Q: I’m looking east across the street at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Ridgecrest. There’s a whole bunch of buzzards out here. They’re here not just today, but they’re here from time and time and there will be hundreds of them. Maybe we can find out why they’re there. It’s not just today. It’s just about every day. I don’t know who to contact with the city.

A: I drove by this location — which happens to be the fenced field behind the Big Inch Pipeline historical marker — several times. While I never saw hundreds of birds there, I did see about a dozen at a time, with others flying around the sky. They are imposing creatures, aren’t they?

I sent a picture to an expert, Texas state ornithologist Cliff Shackelford, who first told me the birds are not buzzards, but black vultures. (He said we have two types of vultures in Texas — the other is the turkey vulture.)

“They are not a health hazard. Without them, we’d be overrun with dead animals on our properties and along our roadways,” he said. “Instead, they are doing us a great service.

“If they’re on the ground, there’s likely a tasty carcass nearby that they’re feasting on or just finished feasting on. They are vulnerable on the ground and would rather loaf on a rooftop. That’s why they like rooftops, power poles, (tree) snags, etc. that are wide open with a clear runway — and easy to take lift by gliding off when getting aloft.”

I did contact Chris Kemper, who heads the Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center, and he said he would ask an animal control officer to take a look, but it sounds like there’s not a lot anyone can do about the situation.

“They’re protected in Texas, so you can’t really do anything to them. You can’t harass them,” he said, and people can’t shoot them or otherwise injure them.

Sometimes, if there are just a few of the birds around, they might be eating something that has died. It sounds like your situation might be something different. Kemper said it’s not uncommon at some times of the year for the birds to congregate together.

Another little note from our friend the ornithologist: The word “buzzard” is a colloquialism that we all recognize, but “vulture” is the correct word.

“Europeans familiar with their ‘buzzard’ back home, which actually are hawks in the genus Buteo like our Red-tailed Hawk here in the U.S., coined the term when they settled in the U.S. centuries ago and the nickname stuck — even though it’s incorrect (thus a colloquialism),” Shackelford said in an email.

— Answer Line appears Thursday and Saturday. Email questions to, leave a message at (903) 232-7208 or write to P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX 75606.