The first whooping cranes of the season arrived at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge this week. As of Wednesday, four of the endangered birds had appeared at the Decatur refuge.
Last year, more than a dozen whooping cranes wintered at the refuge. The birds are identifiable by their white bodies, red crowns, black wing tips and whooping sound.
The endangered species started wintering in north Alabama in 2004 and have attracted bird watchers from across the United States. The popularity of the birds led Wheeler to create the Festival of the Cranes.
The annual Festival of the Cranes will take place Jan. 9. Events include two presentations by Auburn University’s Southeastern Raptor Center, sessions with photographer Paul Bannick, falconer Lauren McGough and filmmaker Ben Raines, and performances by flutist Gareth Laffely. Due to the coronavirus, all of the events will take place at the Princess Theatre.