Sandhill Crane Festival

The 24th annual Sandhill Crane Festival kicks off this weekend in Birchwood, Tennessee.

Jason Jackson, Tennessee Wildlife Manager said, "Its just these birds come in once a year in the fall and winter, and it’s the only time you can see them." Hundreds of people will flock to the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge and Birchwood Community Center  to see the Sandhill cranes. Jackson said, "The bird watchers talk about them being a majestic looking bird, but they are just a neat, real old bird. Prehistoric looking type features." Kirk Miles, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency said, "They are one of the biggest waiting birds that you will see. They are a beautiful birds. I’m sure you can hear on the camera their vocalizations. They are very social birds. Its really neat to just watch them interact with each other."

Eastern Sandhill Cranes began stopping in this region in the early 19-hundreds on their way to and from wintering grounds in Georgia and Florida. Miles said, "They migrate down south, and the refuge is one of the areas that they stop on their migration and a lot of the birds stay here all winter." Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency representatives say there are more than 30-thousand cranes in the area this season that are spending the winter at the Hiwassee and Tennessee rivers. Bird watchers can take in the sites and sounds while using binoculars set up at the observatory all weekend long. Miles said, "Its probably one of the premier wildlife spectacles you can come too in the southeast in the winter at least."

The Sandhill Crane Festival runs from 8am until 5pm Saturday and Sunday. For more information on the weekend’s festivities visit:

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