MDC to hold Vulture Venture at Shepherd of Hills Hatchery

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BRANSON, Mo. – 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.

Natural features bordering Lake Taneycomo in southwest Missouri attract large numbers of vultures each winter. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) invites people to discover nature by viewing these often-misunderstood birds on Feb. 20 at its annual Vulture Venture program. The program will be from noon to 5 p.m. at MDC's Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery, located on the west end of Lake Taneycomo, just below Table Rock Dam.

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 are also plenty of large sycamore trees that supply vultures with sturdy roosting sites. Both turkey vultures and black vultures choose this spot as a wintering site.

These natural features attract hundreds of vultures each winter. This mass gathering of vultures provides opportunities to see these birds, which have an undeserved bad reputation. Although many people find vultures disgusting, they perform 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 hatchery's Conservation Center, people can get an up-close-and-personal view of a live, rehabilitated vulture furnished by the Wonders of Wildlife Museum in Springfield.

No reservations are required for this free event. For more information, call the Hatchery at 417-334-4865, extension 0. Information about vultures and other birds of Missouri can also be found at