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21st Sandhill Crane Festival coming up on January 14th-15th


Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency - TWRANashville, TN – The TWRA is among those organizations set to host the 2012 Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival to be held on January 14th-15th at the Hiwassee Refuge. This is the 21st anniversary of the event.

The Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival is a celebration of the thousands of sandhill cranes that migrate through or spend the winter on and around the Hiwassee Refuge in Birchwood as well as an opportunity to focus attention on the rich wildlife heritage of the state and the Native American history of the area.

Other sponsors for the free family event are the Tennessee Ornithological Society, and the Mapp Foundation in partnership with the Birchwood Community, the Birchwood School, the Cherokee Removal Memorial, Meigs and Rhea County Tourism.

“There is nothing like the experience of seeing and hearing several thousand sandhill cranes take to the air at the same time,” said Dan Hicks, TWRA Region III Information & Education Coordinator. “I hope, with this festival, more Tennesseans can come to the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge and enjoy a watchable wildlife viewing area that features a variety of wildlife species.”

Beginning in the early 1990s, the recovering population of eastern sandhill cranes began stopping at the Hiwassee Refuge on their way to and from their wintering grounds in Georgia and Florida. TWRA has been managing this refuge for over 60 years for waterfowl, and the cranes found a perfect combination of feeding and shallow water roosting habitat. Now as many as 12,000 of these birds spend the entire winter at the confluence of the Hiwassee and Tennessee Rivers.

Recently, the sighting of a very rare Asian hooded crane at the Hiwassee Refuge has created excitement in the bird watching community. Wildlife watchers are mystified by the appearance of this bird, normally only seen in Southeast Asia, China and Japan.

In addition to the hooded crane and the sandhill cranes, recent sightings have included those of four rare whooping cranes, two adult bald eagles, several species of ducks, and the occasional northern harrier.

Along with the opportunity to view the birds during the festival, special programs will also be held throughout each day at the Birchwood School and Cherokee Removal Memorial. The festival website is and updates will be added as the program develops. Programs will be on tap each day at the Birchwood School this year after being only held on Saturday previously.

The Hiwassee Refuge comprises about 6,000 acres. The Birchwood School is only three miles from the wildlife-viewing site at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge.  The Cherokee Removal Memorial is found just to the side of the refuge near the Tennessee River.




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