Driving west from Lincoln to Grand Island, Nebraska, Paul A. Johnsgard remarks, is like driving backward in time. "I suspect," he says, "that the migrating cranes of a pre-ice age period some ten million years ago would fully understand every nuance of the crane conversation going on today along the Platte." Johnsgard has spent nearly a half century observing cranes, from a yearly foray to Nebraska's Platte River valley to see the spring migration, to pilgrimages to the birds' wintering grounds in Arizona and nesting territory in Alaska. In this book he draws from his own extensive experience as well as the latest science to offer a richly detailed and deeply felt account of the ecology of sandhill and whooping cranes and the wetlands in which they live.
Incorporating current information on changing migration patterns, population trends, and breeding ranges, Johnsgard explains the life cycle of the crane, as well as the significance of these species to our natural world. He also writes frankly of the uncertain future of these majestic birds, as cranes and their habitats face the effects of climate change and increasing human population pressures. Illustrated with the author's own ink drawings and containing a detailed guide to crane-viewing sites in the United States and Canada, this book is at once an invaluable reference and an eloquent testimony to how much these birds truly mean.
List of Illustrations; List of Maps; Preface; Acknowledgments 1: Lesser Sandhill Cranes: Pleistocene Relicts from the Tundra; 2: The Other Sandhills: From Sedge Bogs to Palm Savannas; 3: The Whooping Crane: Still Surviving Despite the Odds; 4: Our Cranes and Their Fragile Futures Appendix: Crane Viewing Sites in the United States and Canada; References; Suggested Reading; Online Sources of Information on Cranes; Index
Paul A. Johnsgard is Foundation Regents Professor Emeritus in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He has received the National Conservation Achievement Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award, both sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation, and is the author of more than five dozen books on natural history, including Seasons of the Tallgrass Prairie: A Nebraska Year and Prairie Dog Empire: A Saga of the Shortgrass Prairie.
"In keeping with his long and fascinating series of books about birds, Paul Johnsgard captures the drama of the greatest gathering of cranes on earth – the flocking in early spring of more than a half-million sandhill cranes along the Platte River, Nebraska. This charming volume transmits that special magic when the cranes, springtime, and the river all meet on the Great Plains in the heart of North America."
– George Archibald, cofounder of the International Crane Foundation