Between mid-October and February sandhill cranes migrate to Tennessee for the winter. According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, “Tennessee has wintered an average of over 29,000 cranes over the last five years. There are an estimated minimum 89,000 Sandhill Cranes in the eastern population that passes through and winters in Tennessee. There are two primary areas in Tennessee for migrating cranes.” The Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Birchwood, TN and the Hop-in Refuge in Western Tennessee. Both of these locations have thousands of cranes that can be seen. The cranes have been known to stop off in fields and backyards of Tennessee residents as they travel to their wintering location.
These birds are magnificent. They are between 4 – 5 feet tall, have a wingspan of 5 – 6 feet and weigh between 10- 14 lbs. My grandma Tommie loved these huge birds. We would visit the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge yearly when she was alive. We usually visited in November and early December though. This was my first time visiting in late December. This was also my first time visiting since she passed away last year.
The birds put on quite a show for me. There were thousands of birds here. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more than 29,000. I have never seen this many at one time. They were very loud. I probably should have worn ear plugs it was that loud. It was an amazing site to see.
January 14- 15th will be the 32nd annual Sandhill Crane Festival. For details about the festival, you can visit this site https://www.tn.gov/twra/wildlife/birds/sandhill-crane-festival.html .
I will not be going to the festival. There are too many illnesses going around and I have some immune system issues. I do not need to be around large crowds. When we visited the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge I was the only person out there. I am probably the only one crazy enough to stand out there in 17 degree temperatures to get photos of birds.
If you live in the area and have never checked it out, I strongly suggest you do. I’ve been several times in November and have seen a few hundred cranes. I do think late December and January is the time to visit if you want to see thousands of cranes. There are also a lot of other birds to photo there too. I will be posting a video on Monday, January 2nd for all to see. I will link it here at that time.