Curator of Forests Kevin Calhoon explains the joys of birding

Tennessee Aquarium Curator of Forests Kevin Calhoon is an avid birder whose pursuit of his hobby has taken him all over the world. A tremendously popular activity, birding has millions of American eyes peeled and ears perked on the hunt for new birds to add to their list of observed species.

The Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge lies on Chickamauga Lake about 30 miles north of Chattanooga. Calhoon takes a tour of this special place and explains why it’s so popular with birders, from its high concentration of Bald Eagles and enormous flocks of White Pelicans to its role as a stopping off point for thousands of migrating Sandhill Cranes.
birds are so interesting to me just because they're everywhere i mean when you walk to the grocery store they're there when you're in your backyard or there when you play golf when you drive down the road birds are everywhere there's very few places especially in southeastern tennessee where you can.

Actually see lots of large birds you go to florida and you see lots of cranes and egrets and so on but in tennessee um most places it's it's much more difficult to see large numbers of birds so the hiawassee's is important because besides be.

Incredibly historical it's just a very rich diverse area to to seabird there's large concentrations of bald eagles in this area and the christmas bird counts in the wintertime usually we count about 30 to 30 to 50 actually bald eagles are wintering down here which is quite a quite a big number some things that's.

Happened over the last 10 years or so the american white pelicans have started wintering in this area their populations are booming i think we saw 250 of them today and they tend to be in giant groups so they're they're a spectacular animal to see in this area the hiwassee wildlife.

Management area was set aside to actually attract waterfowl so that's ducks and geese and so on and they grew corn here just for those birds to feed on sand hill cranes love corn so they started stopping at these refuges here where the corn is being grown and just.

And just feeding and kind of hanging out and as time went on many of them just decided to stay for the whole winter so now we have as many as many as 20 000 cranes spending the winter here people call the noises this these birds make bugling or trumpeting and it's it's kind of a primeval sound.

It's it's a very distinctive sound and you hear that when they're migrating they're very much of gregarious flocking birds they kind of keeps them together let's know which of the way they're going just to keep them in a in a flock there's no other bird it sounds like it sounds like the trumpeting or bugling.

Of the samuel crown birding is is very interesting because it has its own culture um when they're when a rare bird is seen birders come from over the world or at least all the other regions come see them i always say like in chattanooga it's like a wedding or a funeral when a good.

Bird shows up you see people you haven't seen in years to come out to see the bird it's a good reason to travel around the world to very very specific very areas that nobody use that usually people don't travel to i've been to all seven continents and been antarctica and seen penguins and.

Been to the tops of the andes and uh you know birded in deserts all the world birded it they're just everywhere the birds are found in every habitat everywhere in the world some people feel it's a way to collect things i i enjoy taking photos of birds i like to just have a i work on having a photo of.

Every bird in the united states that's my goal for every bird in the world a lot of people are working on so a lot of people bird for lots of different reasons it's one of the fastest growing sports if you call a sport as you say outdoor activity i think it's just behind fishing right.

Now and how many millions of people are out looking for birds

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Curator of Forests Kevin Calhoon explains the joys of birding