Local Festival of the Cranes returns this weekend | CullmanSense

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Festival of the Cranes returns this weekend

The event will take place Jan. 13-14 at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge

Whooping crane / Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Agriculture

DECATUR - If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary that doesn’t involve lots of mileage or money, consider a short trek up the road to Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Decatur for the Festival of the Cranes this weekend.  It’s different, it’s close, it’s family-friendly and it’s free!

Since a successful directed migration program brought large numbers of cranes to Wheeler in 2011, a population of sandhill and whooping cranes has made Wheeler its winter home.  Up to 14,000 sandhill cranes temporarily occupy the refuge, and up to seven rare and endangered whooping cranes can be seen each day from the refuge’s wildlife observation building.  Fewer than 700 whooping cranes are alive today, with less than 600 in the wild.

Wheeler’s Festival of the Cranes will take place at the refuge’s visitor center, 3121 Visitors Center Road, Decatur, from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.  The event will include bird viewing, birding workshops, children’s activities, nature walks and sponsor booths.  Admission to the refuge and all events is free.

Raptor shows

If tougher birds are more your thing, the Southeastern Raptor Center at Auburn University will present live shows featuring birds of prey, in conjunction with the festival, at the Princess Theater in downtown Decatur.  The shows will take place at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Saturday, and 1:30 p.m. Sunday. 

From the Southeastern Raptor Center:

“Due to the popularity of the raptor presentations during the Festival of the Cranes and the limited seating and parking at the refuge visitor center, the three raptor presentations will take place at the historic Princess Theater in downtown Decatur.  This will ensure everyone will have the opportunity to enjoy this wonderful entertaining and educational program. 

The presentations are free as always and everyone is invited to attend.  To make it even more convenient to enjoy all the events at Festival of the Cranes, a shuttle will be available to take you to and from the Wheeler Visitor Center to the Princess Theater and other areas of historic downtown Decatur.”

At a glance

Festival of the Cranes

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge visitor center

3121 Visitors Center Road, Decatur

6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday 

Raptor shows at the Princess Theater in Decatur, 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 Sunday

For more information, call the refuge at 256-350-6639.

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