Sandhill Crane Festival

 Sandhill Crane Festival

Whether you’re an avid birder or you’ve never seen a Sandhill Crane before, the Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival represents an extraordinary opportunity to witness a natural phenomenon that is truly unforgettable.

The 28th Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival will be held Jan. 18-19 at the Birchwood Community Center.

Schedule of Events Vendor Application 

TWRA is happy to host the 2020 Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival in Birchwood on January 18-19 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily. 

The Cherokee Memorial is once again hosting Native Americans folklorists and crafts throughout the weekend. This inspiring place evokes responsibility and remembrance of our acts as a nation. The memorial also serves as a place of celebration for a people still thriving with a rich tradition and culture. ‚Äč14th North American Crane Workshop annual meeting taking place in Chattanooga, prior to the festival. Crane researchers and conservationists from around North America will attend this prestigious event.

The entire region buzzes with birds and birdwatchers alike. Along with the star of the weekend, the Sandhill crane, many types of waterfowl, bald eagles, golden eagles, white pelicans and even whooping cranes are spotted each year. Free buses run the short distance from the Birchwood Community Center to the Hiwassee Refuge and Cherokee Removal Memorial. Both the memorial and refuge provide great birding opportunities, with views of the Hiwasseee. Volunteers and scopes are set up at each location to help novice birders or curious visitors. 

Beginning in the early 1990’s the recovering population of eastern Sandhill cranes began stopping at the Hiwassee Refuge as they migrated to and from their wintering grounds in Georgia and Florida. TWRA has been managing this refuge for more than 60 years for waterfowl. Therefore, cranes find a perfect combination of areas for feeding and roosting. As many as 12,000 cranes have been known to overwinter at the confluence of the Tennessee and Hiwassee Rivers.

Visit the Cherokee Removal Memorial’s Facebook page:

**Other Sandhill Crane Festival partners include the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, Tennessee Ornithological Society, Birchwood Area Society Improvement Council, Cherokee Removal Memorial Park, Cleveland State Community College, American Eagle Foundation, Chattanooga Chapter TOS, Meigs County Tourism, and Rhea County Tourism.

Whether you’re an avid birder or you’ve never seen a Sandhill Crane before, the Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival represents an extraordinary opportunity to witness a natural phenomenon that is truly unforgettable.

The Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival is held every year at the Hiwassee Refuge and at the Birchwood Community Center.

TWRA is always excited to host the Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival.  The festival also inlcudes live music and crafts.

Biology & History

The modern era of sandhill crane hunting in Tennessee began with the late waterfowl season on November 28, 2013 and ran through January 1, 2014. The US, Canada and Mexico manage sandhill crane harvest through the same regulatory mechanisms as waterfowl and other migratory game birds. Listed as a game species, many central US states, Canadian provinces and Mexico have been hunting cranes for over 50 years and all populations are stable or increasing. Hunting in the eastern US was closed until Kentucky’s 2011 season and then Tennessee’s 2013 season.

North American Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill cranes are the most numerous and wide ranging of all worldwide crane species with a population exceeding 600,000. There are six distinct migratory populations of sandhill cranes with breeding ranges extending across North America. During migration, sandhill cranes congregate in large numbers at staging areas of mid-latitude states and then migrate to wintering areas in the southern US and Mexico. Hunting occurs on four of the six migratory sandhill crane populations with over 26,000 cranes harvested annually.
The hunting of sandhill cranes continues to grow in popularity since the first US hunts in 1961.

The Eastern Population of sandhill cranes has undergone am impressive recovery by rebounding from an estimated 25 breeding pairs in the 1930s to a minimum population of over 87,000 in recent years. The core breeding range lies in south-central Ontario, Michigan, and Wisconsin extending into adjacent Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Quebec. In recent years this breeding range has expanded east to include several of the New England states, as well as south, including Indiana, Ohio, and Iowa. The Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways are the main migratory routes of the Eastern Population. These cranes winter primarily in Florida and Georgia though recently cranes are wintering further north in Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, and even southern Ontario.

Tennessee Sandhill Cranes

The sandhill cranes migrating or wintering in Tennessee make up a large proportion of the Eastern Population. The Eastern Population of sandhill cranes migrates through and winters in portions of Tennessee and is considered the world’s second largest sandhill crane population. Tennessee has wintered an average of over 23,000 cranes over the last five years. Two areas serve as primary migration and wintering areas including the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge where thousands can be seen at one time. Hop-in Refuge and surrounding lands near the Reelfoot Lake in west Tennessee attract several thousand sandhill cranes as well. Smaller groups of cranes can be seen scattered across the Tennessee landscape too.



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