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Bird-Watchers Are All Aflutter: Asian Crane Shows Up In Tennessee

The surprise visitor: An Asian hooded crane that has shown up at the Hiwassee Refuge in Tennessee.
John Kuehnel
Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival
The surprise visitor: An Asian hooded crane that has shown up at the Hiwassee Refuge in Tennessee.

Just in time for the mid-January Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival at the Hiwassee Refuge, an Asian hooded crane that probably should be in Japan this time of year has flown in with thousands of his North American relatives.

And as Reuters says, that is "drawing flocks of curious birdwatchers" to the refuge in southeast Tennessee.

"It's a great thrill," Melinda Welton, conservation chair for the Tennessee Ornithological Society and a bird migration researcher, tells the wire service. "People are coming in from all over the country to see this bird."

The crane was first seen on Dec. 13, according to The Tennessean. It's possible, the newspaper reported, that it could be the same bird that was spotted last April in Idaho. Photos don't show any band on its legs, making it less likely that it's an escapee from an North American zoo or sanctuary.

Welton tells Reuters it could just be that the bird took a wrong turn somewhere "and now that he's on the North American continent, it looks like he's associating with his closest relatives."

There are photos and a few videos showing up on the Web, including this musical mash-up.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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