By MDC | June 1, 2024
From Missouri Conservationist: June 2024

Got a question for Ask MDC? Send it to or call 573-522-4115, ext. 3848.

Q: These birds perched in a small opening in bluffs overlooking Lake of the Ozarks. Can you help identify them?

These are black vulture chicks. Their natal down is a buffy, sometimes pinkish color, whereas turkey vultures have fluffy white down. As this species expands its range northward, we can expect to see more black vultures statewide. For more information about black vultures, visit

Q: In recent years I’ve noticed holes in the leaves of my maple tree. The tree also is turning yellow earlier than normal. Now, several branches are not growing leaves. Any guidance to help me care for this tree?

The holes in the leaves were caused by insects feeding early in the growing season. Generally, this does not harm the tree. And since insects feed baby birds and other animals, conservationists do not recommend spraying insecticides.

However, the early fall color and leaf drop is likely due to the severe drought Missouri has been experiencing multiple seasons in a row. Through mid-April, most of Missouri was undergoing abnormally dry to severe drought conditions.

Yard trees that don’t get a good, soaking rain every two weeks should be watered, according to MDC foresters. Without water, trees are at risk of dying. Water should be applied across the soil surface and allowed to soak into the soil. Surface soaking allows tree roots more chances to absorb any water, helps maintain soil health, and helps maintain essential element cycling and transformations in the soil. A soaker hose or drip irrigation system — which a homeowner can turn on and off — are the best ways to water trees. Even a garden hose, moved often, can provide a good soil soaking. Take care to water the surface beneath the tree’s canopy but keep water off the leaves. Foliage that is watered can be sun-scalded or develop fungal foliage disorders.

For more information on how to properly water trees, visit

Q: We think we have a maternity colony of 50 bats nearby. We would like to provide a water source for these local bats and birds, too. Does MDC have any tips?

Bats typically like to roost about 160 yards from a reliable water source. If you already have a sizeable roost that returns consistently, it’s likely the bats already are using a water source regularly nearby.

Bats drink water by skimming the surface, lapping water as they go. This means a body of water must be at least 2 to 3 yards across to provide space for this behavior. If you do install a cattle trough, pool, or small pond, MDC’s bat scientists recommend placing something along the edge to allow bats to climb out if they misjudge their approach and fall in. (Sometimes people find bats in their swimming pool filters for this reason.) Also, to keep mosquito reproduction in check, it may be a good idea to stock the water source with native fish or install a moving water feature, such as a waterfall, fountain, or aerator. While bats do eat mosquitoes, they are generalist predators capable of eating a variety of other insects, including moths and beetles.

This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Associate Editor - Larry Archer
Photography Editor - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Staff Writer – Dianne Van Dien
Designer - Marci Porter
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Circulation – Marcia Hale