CONTACT: Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association
PHONE: 256.350.3500 / 800.648.5381

One Day Event for the 2021 Festival of the Cranes 

Decatur, Ala. (December 14, 2020) – Over 14,000 Sandhill Cranes along with several pairs of Whooping Cranes spend the winter each year at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Decatur, Ala. In celebration of the winter migration of these long-legged and long-necked birds, Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Association hosts an event offering a variety of activities for experienced birders and anyone who would like to learn more about birding and other wildlife that call the Refuge home. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, modifications to the 2021 Festival of the Cranes have been implemented as additional safety measures for attendees. The event is set for January 9 with presentations held at the Princess Theatre located at 112 2nd Avenue in downtown Decatur. Admission to each of the presentations is free and seating is limited (due to social distancing guidelines) with first come, first served admission.

9:00 a.m. - Video presentation by Master Falconer Lauren McGough
McGough has been a licensed and practicing falconer since age 14 and has been particularly enamored with gold eagles as hunting partners, a unique branch of falconry that has only a handful of practitioners in the United States. She learned to hunt with eagles through years of living with the nomadic people of Mongolia, as featured in a 2018 segment of 60 Minutes.

10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. – Auburn University Southeastern Raptor Center live performance
The Southeastern Raptor Center presents their educational program to teach about birds of prey. Attendees can see hawks, eagles, falcons and owls up close while learning about habitats, conservation and ecology.

2:30 p.m. – Snowy Owl: A Visual Natural History video presentation by Paul Bannick
The video presentation provides rare intimate looks into the life history of one of the world’s most charismatic birds. In the presentation, the physical features, preferred habitats, breeding cycle, hunting strategies, as well as prey and conservation issues are explored through several dozen never-before published images.

4 p.m. – Gareth Laffely live performance
Laffely is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, composer and producer from Gallatin, Tenn., whose music has been licensed by the Discovery Channel, NASCAR and Public Television. An award winning Native American flute player and composer, Laffely is of Mi’kmaq/Cree descent. 

5:30 p.m. – Ben Raines Saving America’s Amazon: The Threat to Our Nation’s Most Biodiverse River System live presentation
Raines has won more than two dozen awards for his coverage of environmental issues and natural wonders in Alabama and on the Gulf Coast and coauthored several peer reviewed papers published in scientific journals. He wrote and produced the documentary America’s Amazon, which has aired on PBS stations around the country.

In addition to the presentations at the Princess Theatre, a variety of activities are planned in the community before, during and after the Festival of the Cranes. 

-    Jan. 8 - Feb. 19: Festival of the Cranes Art Exhibition at the Alabama Center for the Arts 
-    Jan. 9: Bird and nature art journaling workshop led by Timothy Joe at the Carnegie Visual Arts Center
-    Jan. 7 - 9: Lunch and Learn Lecture Series, movies and crafts at the Cook Museum of Natural Science 

For more information on the Festival of the Cranes, visit or follow for the latest updates. 

About Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association (AMLA)
AMLA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion and development of the travel industry within the 16 northernmost counties of the state. It is supported by 500-plus members consisting of chambers of commerce, Convention & Visitors Bureaus, attractions, campgrounds, festivals, communities, counties, golf courses, restaurants, tour operators, accommodations, vendors, financial institutions and individuals. Counties included within the AMLA region are Blount, Cherokee, Colbert, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Franklin, Jackson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Morgan and Winston. Additional information on North Alabama destinations, accommodations and special events is available by calling 800.648.5381 or by visiting Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @VisitNorthAL and like us at