Take a Vulture Venture at Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery

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BRANSON, Mo. -- Vultures are a well-known, but under-appreciated member of the Ozarks’ bird world. Few people realize it, but these large, dark-colored birds many people refer to as “buzzards” perform valuable roles in nature.

Thanks in part to the natural features bordering Lake Taneycomo, Ozarkers and others will have a chance to view these misunderstood birds on Saturday, Feb. 16, at the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) 17th annual Vulture Venture program. The program will be from noon to 5 p.m. at the MDC 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 it’s thought this location attracts large numbers of resident and migrating vultures 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.

Whatever the reasons are, the vultures come each year and, with them, come opportunities to see this bird, which has an undeserved bad reputation. Although many people find vultures disgusting, they perform a valuable clean-up service by ridding the environment of dead animals.

Saturday’s event will consist of outside viewing opportunities and indoor activities. In addition to the vultures people will be able to see outdoors through spotting scopes, people can get an up-close-and-personal view of a live vulture inside the Hatchery’s Conservation Center. There, courtesy of the Wonders of Wildlife Museum in Springfield, people will see vulture programs involving a live, captive vulture.

No reservations are required for this free event. For more information, call the Hatchery at 417-334-4865.