Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill cranes in the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge

'Tis the season for thousands of more birds in Tennessee, thanks to migration.

"The Hiwassee region here in Tennessee is one of the largest congregations of wintering Sandhill Cranes in the Eastern United States," said Bill Haley, an Education Outreach Coordinator at the Tennessee Aquarium. He said the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge was originally formed for wintering water foul.

"Then they planted corn and the Sandhill cranes love the corn and they found out there is a good store of food here," said Haley. The population started soaring after they did this in the 1990s. Haley said there are only about 40,000 Sandhill Cranes in the Eastern United States and a quarter of them end up migrating to the wildlife refuge. These Sandhill Cranes come from Canada and the Great Lakes Area. Sandhill cranes can have a wingspan of anywhere from five to six feet and will weigh anywhere from six to 14 pounds.

The Sandhill Cranes arrive in mid-November and will stay until mid-February.

From December 30 through January 16, the River Gorge Explorer will run special eco-cruises to give people the best and closet view of these cranes. For more information on the cruises click here.

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