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 Saturday at its annual Vulture Venture program. This free event will be from noon to 5 p.m. at MDC’s Shepherd of the Hills Conservation Center 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.
The Vulture Venture event will consist of outside viewing opportunities and indoor activities. Outside, people will be able to see vultures along the lake through spotting scopes. Indoors at the Conservation Center, people can get an up-close-and-personal view of a live, captive vulture furnished by the Wonders of Wildlife Museum in Springfield.
No reservations are required for this free event. The Shepherd of the Hills Conservation Center is part of MDC’s Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery. For more information about this event or other events at the Conservation Center, call 417-334-4865, extension 0.
Information about vultures and other birds of Missouri can also be found at https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/search/vulture