Ozark Outdoors

‘Vulture Venture’ highlights benefits of nature’s misunderstood birds

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A turkey vulture spreads its impressive wings, perfect for soaring high above its habitat for carrion. Turkey vultures will be on display for visitors to Vulture Venture at Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery on Saturday, Feb. 25.

BRANSON, Mo. – Vultures are a well-known, but under-appreciated member of the bird world, but few of us seem to realize that these large, dark-colored “buzzards” perform a valuable service in nature.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) will help us appreciate these often-misunderstood birds on Saturday, Feb. 25 at its annual “Vulture Venture” program from Noon to 5 p.m. at Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery, located on the west end of Lake Taneycomo, just below Table Rock Dam near Branson. Reservations are not necessary for the free event. For more information, call the hatchery at 417-334-4865, Ext. 0. Information about vultures and other birds of Missouri can also be found at mdc.mo.gov.

A pair of black vultures on a front lawn in southwest Springfield makes for a strange bird sighting in 2015.

Vultures can be observed at Lake Taneycomo throughout the year, but in winter, this well-known trout-fishing spot attracts hundreds more. One reason is its canyon-like topography that gives the birds a haven from cold winter winds. The abundant sycamore trees provide sturdy roosting sites.

Although many people find vultures disgusting, these birds provide a valuable clean-up service by ridding the environment of dead animals. They often share the air space with black vultures, which have keen eyesight that turkey vultures lack. In return, the black vultures benefit from the sharp sense of smell that guides turkey vultures to carrion.

Vulture Venture event includes both outside viewing opportunities and indoor activities. Visitors may see vultures along the lake through spotting scopes, while indoors at the conservation, you can get an up-close-and-personal view of a live, captive vulture furnished by the Wonders of Wildlife Museum in Springfield.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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