Extremely rare whooping cranes back at Wheeler Wildlife Refuge for winter

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DECATUR, Ala.  - It's a special time for nature-lovers, as a rare species makes itself comfortable in the valley for another cold season.

"You have 60,000 ducks that come here, roughly 20,000 sandhill cranes, and with those sandhill cranes you have a very special bird called the whooping crane," said Amber Wilson, the Whooping Crane Outreach Program Assistant.

At one point, there were only 15 of them in nature. Now, they love winters down south, bringing a treasure to Wheeler Wildlife Refuge.

"They're one of the rarest birds on the planet theres only 400 of them in the wild right now and around 30 of them come here to Wheeler in the winter time," said Wilson.

The whooping crane isn't a natural flock, they were raised in captivity and reintroduced to the wild, making the sightings at Wheeler that much more special.

These birds are incredibly rare and true a symbol of conservation and how humans wildlife can work together," said Wilson.

Hundreds of people, both local and nonlocal, come out yearly to see the winter guests. The refuge will host the Festival of the Cranes January 13-14, featuring speakers, crafts, and of course, cranes.

"The fact that they are choosing Alabama to come to in the winter time is special," said Wilson. "These birds are chosen Alabamians and we love to see them every year.

You can spot them until about march when they head back to their breeding grounds in Wisconsin.