During the past few weeks, residents and visitors alike have probably witnessed two unique phenomena on Lake Seminole. First, large flocks of vultures, both the Black Vulture and Turkey Vultures can be seen circling areas of the lake. A large flock spiraling in flight on the thermal updrafts is fascinating to watch and is called a “kettle” because of the resemblance to a pot of boiling water. Turkey Vultures can be recognized by their characteristic red heads. Black Vultures have a black head. Although native to our area, additional flocks of both species migrate here in winter and feed on the local carrion.

A group of vultures feeding is known as a “wake.” In the pecking order of nature, the Black Vulture has feeding priority over the Turkey Vulture.

Feeding priority is typically determined by the size of the beak and the ability to rip open the hide or skin for access of the  others. The eagle is at the top of the pecking order and all vultures will step aside until they have their fill.

The second unique phenomenon on Lake Seminole is the dying of tilapias. Tilapia are not native to Lake Seminole, but they are not an invasive species. To be classified as invasive  the species must do damage to other native species. Tilapia are very beneficial to our dynamic ecosystem. Tilapia are herbivores and their diet consists of algae, plankton, some forms of vegetation and the detritus from the decaying organic material. Young tilapia are a favorite food source for largemouth bass, and in fact, is one of the reasons (other than catch and release) that bass grow so large in Mexico. Tilapia are commercially raised in the famous bass lakes like El Salto, Guerrero and others. In the Spring, tilapia typically spawn after largemouth bass and their beds are nearly a perfect circle and much larger in size than largemouth bass beds. Some people mistakenly believe tilapia eat bass eggs. This is not true! When seen around bass nests they are merely eating the plankton, algae and detritus that is on the bottom.

Back to the second unique phenomenon. Tilapia are a warm water species. When the water temperature drops to 50 oF and below, tilapias start to die. Hundreds of dead tilapias can be seen around the lake floating along the shoreline. The larger tilapia seem to die first. Shallow waters cool faster and those that don’t make it to the warmer depths soon perish. This is pretty much an annual phenomenon. The vultures come. They circle and wait, and in the perfect harmony of nature, they play their cleanup role to keep our lake pristine.