Sandhill Crane Migration in Chattanooga

Two sandhill cranes in flight
Two sandhill cranes in flight by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is licensed under CC-CC0 1.0

It’s that time of year in Chattanooga when if you’re outside and you hear a faint bugle call, or a cacophony of them, you know to look up in the sky. The Sandhill cranes have arrived for the winter. An average of 29,000 sandhill cranes spend the winter in Tennessee. They fly in formation, but they also circle around seeking a thermal of warm air to gain altitude in. Often, they are so high up that they appear to be specks but that call will give them away. With a wingspan of 6-7 feet and a height of 4 feet that tells you how high up they really are.

The nearby 6,000- acre Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge is the best place to view them in Chattanooga. The refuge is a stop on the The birds are omnivores and love corn and other grains that the refuge sows for them as well as small land and water creatures. Birdwatchers gather to watch them in their habitat and there are many area kayak tours to get closer to them. The cranes mate for life and have one brood a year usually nesting in standing water.

I’ve still been hearing them fly over every night so if you haven’t taken a trip to the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge it’s not too late, but they’ll be back next year, and I’ll be watching for them!

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