Vultures are a well-known, but under-appreciated member of the bird world. Few people realize it, but these large, dark-colored birds that many people refer to as “buzzards” perform valuable roles in nature.
The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) invites people to learn about these often-misunderstood birds on Feb. 26 at its annual Vulture Venture program. This free event, which will consist of indoor programs and outdoor viewing opportunities, will be from noon to 5 p.m. at MDC’s Shepherd of the Hills Conservation Center. The Conservation Center is part of the MDC’s Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery and is located at 483 Hatchery Road on the west end of Lake Taneycomo near Branson.
Vultures can be seen at Lake Taneycomo throughout the year, but in winter, this well-known trout-fishing spot attracts hundreds of these birds. One reason this location attracts large numbers of resident and migrating vultures in winter is its canyon-like topography that gives the birds a haven from cold winter winds. There is also an abundance of sycamore trees that provide these large birds with sturdy roosting sites.
This seasonal mass gathering of vultures provides opportunities to see these birds, which have an undeserved bad reputation. Although many people find vultures disgusting, these birds provide a valuable clean-up service by ridding the environment of dead animals.
Reservations will be required for the indoor programs that will be part of this event. At these programs, people can get an up-close view of a live, captive vulture furnished by Wonders of Wildlife Museum of Springfield. Here are the registration links to these programs:
• 1-1:30 p.m.: https://mdc-event-web.s3licensing.com/Event/EventDetails/182400.
• 2-2:30 p.m.: https://mdc-event-web.s3licensing.com/Event/EventDetails/182437.
• 3-3:30 p.m.; https://mdc-event-web.s3licensing.com/Event/EventDetails/182438.
• 4-4:30 p.m.; https://mdc-event-web.s3licensing.com/Event/EventDetails/182440.
While the programs are going on indoors, people will be able to see vultures along the lake through spotting scopes outside. For more information, call the Hatchery at 417-334-4865, extension 0.
Staff at MDC facilities across the state are holding in-person and virtual programs. A listing of these programs can be found at mdc.mo.gov/events.