Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival set for the weekend

In this Friday, Feb. 6, 2015 photo, sandhill cranes leave the area in small groups after they gathered at a roosting location for the night along their winter migration route in Cecilia, Ky. These birds, which are part of the eastern population of sandhill cranes, are part of a group estimated to be larger than 70,000 birds, many of which were wintering in Florida. (AP Photo/David Stephenson)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The annual Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival is this month at the Hiwassee Refuge and Birchwood Community Center.

The festival celebrates thousands of cranes that migrate through or winter around the Hiwassee Refuge.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency says the recovering population of eastern sandhill cranes began stopping at the refuge in the early 1990s on their way to and from wintering grounds in Georgia and Florida.

At the refuge, the cranes found the right combination of feeding and shallow water roosting habitat. Now as many as some 12,000 of the birds spend the winter at the confluence of the Hiwassee and Tennessee rivers.

The wildlife agency has managed the refuge for more than 60 years for waterfowl.

The festival will be held Saturday and Sunday. The location is about 35 miles northeast of Chattanooga.

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