Vultures to be focus of special MDC event on Feb. 21 in Branson

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BRANSON, Mo. – Vultures are well-known, but under-appreciated members 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.

Thanks, in part, to the natural features bordering Lake Taneycomo, people will have a chance to view these misunderstood birds on Feb. 21 at the Missouri Department of Conservation's (MDC) 19th 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 along the shoreline that supply vultures with sturdy roosting sites.

This mass gathering of vultures provides great opportunities to view 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, captive vulture from 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.