Five months before Sandhill Cranes arrive in East Tennessee along their winter migratory route, viewers at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater will get a chance to see them up close and on an epic scale in brilliant 3D footage on Chattanooga’s biggest screen.
Premiering Friday, July 1, Wings Over Water 3D and its Oscar-nominated narrator Michael Keaton will take viewers into North America’s heartland to fly alongside the birds inhabiting the continent’s unique and majestic prairie wetlands as they navigate these “water highways.”
Prairie wetlands are unique to the North American continent and span five U.S. states and 3 Canadian provinces, where they make up an area larger than the state of Texas. Leftover from the passage of glaciers in past millennia, these vital habitats are home to more than 200 species of birds from Spring to Fall.
Wings Over Water tells the stories of three species that spend these warm months feeding, mating and raising their young in wetlands: majestic Sandhill Cranes, instantly-recognizable Mallard Ducks and diminutive Yellow Warblers.
A group of Mallard Ducks lands amongst the tall grass in the prairie wetlands. (Credit: Wings Over Water Film Crew)
All three of these featured species can be seen in Tennessee. That’s why the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) has chosen to partner with the Tennessee Aquarium to bring this film to Chattanooga. “We hope this film inspires families to explore nature and seek out watchable wildlife throughout the year,” says TWRA Executive Director Jason Maxedon. “Our state offers a richly diverse landscape perfect for more than 140 species of waterbirds and other wildlife that thrive in their Tennessee habitats, or pass through as they migrate across the country.”
Audiences will be amazed by the cinematography in Wings Over Water.
Filmmakers spent as many as ten hours a day waiting in specially constructed huts known as “blinds,” which allowed them to capture footage of Sandhill Crane’s elaborate mating dances. Viewers will see the birds leap into the air, bow, and toss sticks as they perform a ritual that strengthens the bonds of these birds that mate for life.
With incredible slow-motion drone footage that follows cranes and warblers in flight, viewers will feel like they’re soaring through the skies alongside their feathered companions.
Yellow Warbler parents care for their chicks in a nest on the edge of a pond in the Prairie wetland region. (Credit: Wings Over Water Film Crew)
The film’s stunning sequences bring the inhabitants of these freshwater oases into stark focus at a time when these vital ecosystems are in peril.
More than 1 billion people worldwide depend on wetlands for their livelihoods, and the habitats filter runoff from agriculture to help ensure that drinking water is safe for another 50 million. Half of all ducks in North America inhabit prairie wetlands every year, and prairie grasses serve as vast carbon sinks by storing carbon dioxide in their roots as deep as 14 feet below ground.
Despite their importance, more than two-thirds of the planet’s wetlands have been damaged or diverted by human activity. Wings Over Water introduces viewers to the people working to protect North America’s wetlands, like National Audubon Society Audubon Chief Conservation Officer Marshall Johnson.
Johnson is responsible for all Audubon projects in North and South Dakota, including managing almost 5,000 acres of wetland and grassland and the organization’s Important Bird Area program, which protects millions of acres of migratory bird habitats across the two states.
A Great Horned Owl, an impressive predator, swoops down to try and make a nighttime catch. (Credit: Wings Over Water Film Crew)
Sponsored by Audubon and Ducks Unlimited, the film will inspire audiences to join the more than 65 million Americans who consider themselves avid birders. Viewers can even use the Audubon birding mobile app to get started on their own bird-watching journeys and seek out Sandhill Cranes when they arrive in our area later this winter.
This film has an extensive educator guide with lesson plans designed for grades K through 8.
Wings Over Water 3D premieres Friday, July 1. Tickets are available here.