Crane Festival – Rocket City Mom

Over 14,000 sandhill cranes and several pairs of whooping cranes overwinter each year at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge (WNWR) in Decatur, Ala. To celebrate the winter migration of these long-legged, long-necked birds, Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Association is hosting a two-day event offering a variety of indoor and outdoor activities appealing to people of all ages. Scheduled from January 14-16, 2022, the Crane Festival takes place at the refuge, and in addition to two days of nature walks, live raptors, and special programs, activities take place at various locations in Decatur before and during the festival.

Now in its ninth year, the Festival of the Cranes has grown into a popular event, regardless of the festival goer’s birding experience. There are activities for experienced bird watchers, for those with little or no knowledge of birding, and for anyone interested in learning more about the bird watching and other wildlife that inhabit the Refuge. During the two-day event, guests are invited to tour the observation building to see thousands of sandhill cranes as well as several whooping cranes, ducks, geese, raptors and possibly a bald eagle in the comfort of the heated building. Bleachers and spotting scopes are available, along with volunteers and staff ready to answer questions.

Additional activities planned at WNWR include a Birdwatching 101 workshop, a solo theater performance featuring the life of President Roosevelt, the latest crane conservation news from the President and CEO of ICF, a photography workshop, a presentation by a licensed and practicing falconer and more.

The Princess Theater, the Cook Museum of Natural Science, the Old State Bank, the Carnegie Visual Art Center, and the Alabama Center for the Arts also offer special events in conjunction with the Festival of the Cranes. The program of events includes the John Paul White concert (tickets available at, the popular presentation of the Southeastern Raptor Center at Auburn University, a photography exhibition featuring owls and woodpeckers, workshops art, art exhibitions featuring cranes and more.

For more information on the Crane Festival, including a calendar of events, visit the Crane Festival in Wheeler or follow our Facebook page for the latest updates. Prices for events throughout the festival range from free to $ 30.

FRIDAY Program of events – 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Concert at 7:00 p.m.

SATURDAY Program of events – 6.30am – 7.00pm

SUNDAY Calendar of events – 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge was established on July 7, 1938 by executive order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the first National Wildlife Refuge placed on a multipurpose reservoir to provide habitat for wintering and migrating birds. Covering 35,000 acres, it attracts thousands of wintering waterfowl each year and is home to Alabama’s largest population of wintering ducks. The refuge is also home to the largest concentration of sandhill cranes and the endangered whooping crane. For more information on Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, visit

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