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Festival of the Cranes at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge

Festival of the Cranes at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge

Cranes are the most endangered species of birds on the planet. They are huge, long lived birds that have captivated human attention for thousands of years. In all, there are 15 species of crane around the world, and here in North America we have two species.

The Sandhill Crane is the most common species of crane in the world. Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Decatur, Alabama gets around 15,000 Sandhill Cranes during the winter months. The numbers of Sandhill Cranes that visit during the winter attract birders and photographers from all over the southeast.

Sandhill festival of cranes

If you go to Wheeler looking for the Sandhill Cranes at the observation building you might have a chance to see a few larger, white cranes mixed in with the Sandhill Cranes. That is the Whooping Crane, the tallest bird in North America (standing 5 feet tall), and are also the rarest crane in the entire world.

There are only about 400 Whooping Cranes in the wild, and they are recovering from a low of around 20 birds in the 1950’s. Last year, Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge was visited by 25 Whooping Cranes, and is one of the best places to see these rare winter visitors.

If you go to the observation building between November and February you are almost guaranteed to see a Whooping Crane! The festival events have been stretched over 4 days this year, compared to just one day in previous years. There will be guest speakers, kids activities, and of course, the chance to see one of the rarest birds on the planet.

Festival of Cranes Details

Kids Activities at the Festival of the Cranes on January 9th and 10th at Wheeler NWR

  • Children’s Activities: Make a Crane Mask, crane puppet, and origami crane.
  • Auburn University Southeastern Raptor Center Presentation
  • Meet President Theodore Roosevelt – portrayed by Joe Wiegand
  • Crane Dancing with Naturalist Amber Wilson – January 10th only
  • Book on the Boardwalk – read a children’s book about Whooping Cranes while walking the beautiful Cypress Trail.

This festival promises to be educational and entertaining for all participants! Click HERE to browse through the list of events that are occurring in Decatur, Madison, and Huntsville between January 7th -10th 2016. A variety of events means fun for everyone!

Do you want to learn more about Whooping Cranes? How about a free, interactive presentation on cranes for your kids? Contact Lizzie Condon at [email protected], the International Crane Foundation to find out more. Visit our website to learn more about Whooping Cranes and other crane species around the world.

[themify_box style=”lavender rounded” ]Wheeler Wildlife RefugeABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amber Wilson is an Interpretive Naturalist Intern from the International Crane Foundation (ICF). Originally from Atlanta, Amber spent majority of 2015 at ICF’s headquarters in Wisconsin learning all about the world’s 15 crane species. Currently, she is based at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge giving presentations and information on the rare Whooping Cranes that spend their winter in Alabama.


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