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Nature Birdwatching Guides


A Natural History of a Bird in Crisis

by (author) Janice Hughes

Firefly Books
Initial publish date
Sep 2008
Birdwatching Guides, Environmental Conservation & Protection, Ornithology
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2008
    List Price

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The history, habits, life and lore of a resourceful and iconic bird.

Long in neck, leg and wing, cranes are imposing wading birds that are among the largest and tallest of the world's bird families. Cranes are found on all continents except South America and Antarctica. They are typically associated with open wetland and grassland habitats, where their bright plumage, graceful proportions and convivial nature are displayed in elaborate dancing and duet calling. Those species that breed in the northern regions of North America and Eurasia undertake long migrations each spring and fall. Cranes choose life-long mates and are devoted parents that raise their young with both tenderness and determination.

Cranes traces the history of these fascinating birds from their early origins in the Mesozoic Era to the present day. The book covers anatomy, feeding habits, mating rituals, habitats, caring for the chicks, migration and seasonal movements. A special section is devoted to cranes in myth and folklore. Species profiles are included, along with range maps and conservation status of:

  • Black-crowned crane
  • Red-crowned crane
  • Black-necked crane
  • Sandhill crane
  • Blue crane
  • Sarus crane
  • Brolga
  • Siberian crane
  • Demoiselle crane
  • Wattled crane
  • Eurasian crane
  • White-naped crane
  • Grey crowned crane
  • Whooping crane
  • Hooded crane.

Emphasis is given to the whooping crane as a case study of the environmental and human pressures that threaten the existence of all family members. Through the tireless efforts of many dedicated researchers and volunteers, this species is slowly being brought back from the edge of extinction. Operation Migration, the project to establish a migratory population of whooping cranes in the eastern United States, is profiled in a special chapter of Cranes.

About the author

Janice Hughes is a biology professor at Lakehead University. A member of the Society of Conservation Biologists and the American Ornithologists' Union, she is also the author of The Royal Ontario Museum Field Guide to the Birds of Ontario. She lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Janice Hughes' profile page

Editorial Reviews

Janice Hughes has done an excellent job of conveying the current state of scientific knowledge about cranes in an easily understandable fashion.... Overall, the author succeeds admirably in chronicling the decline and gradual recovery of the Whooping Cranes in North America... Most [of the photographs] are of outstanding quality and they are a splendid and instructive support to a text that is easy to read. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about the biology and conservation of cranes in general and the Whooping Cranes in particular.

Journal of the British Ornithologists' Union

Beautifully done.

Muskoka Today

Cranes is a beautiful book about a beautiful bird and, unfortunately, a threatened one.... In her informative and interesting book, Hughes looks ata the natural history of cranes as well as the decline of Whooping Cranes along with their modest recovery -- including some of those responsible for helping to bring this tenacious bird back from the brink of extinction.... Besides the informative text, there are numerous, beautiful colour photographs throughout the book. Cranes: A Nature History of a Bird in Crisis is an important book and will be of interest to anyone interested in animals, nature or history.

MetroLand North .com

An entertaining and informative book. Highly recommended.

Wildlife Afield, Biodiversity Centre for Wildlife Studies

An intimate profile of these statuesque waders and a call for conservation.

Science News

Hughes provides answers to a myriad of questions about cranes in this new examination.... Beautifully illustrated.


At its is well-written, even eloquent, especially in sections discussing the plight of cranes.... If you are interested in the fascinating account of the collapse and gradual recovery of the Whooping Crane in North America, coupled with an overview of cranes generally, then this could be a good book to acquire.

The Canadian Field-Naturalist, Vol. 121

Eye-catching photographs of 15 crane species ... Hughes uses the whooping crane to tell the story of the human and environmental pressures leading to the decline of the cranes.

The Olympian

Large, beautifully produced [and] has fantastic photography... enjoyable and comprehensive.... Recommended to anyone wishing to learn more about [this] fascinating family.

Whoop it up for the 15 species of this endangered creature. Stick your neck out, wade right in, and Hughes' full treatment will reward your effort.

Philadelphia Inquirer

Anyone interested in cranes, especially the Whooping Crane, will enjoy this book.

Scientific Life (Birdbooker Report 39)

[Cranes] is more than a coffee-table book, giving us an opportunity to reflect on the complex ties that bid humans and birds.

Montreal Gazette

An intimate profile of these statues waders and a call for conservation.

Science News


The Star Phoenix

This book is both a good read and a useful resource for anyone interested in the conservation of some of the world's most beautiful birds.

Birding Business Magazine

Easily the best account of America's effort to save from extinction the whooping crane, one of our rarest and, arguably, most beautiful birds. Over the years there have been several book-length accounts of these efforts.... None of these is as complete as this book. Additionally, it is the most up-to-date, bringing the story of the whooping crane's recovery program up to the late summer of 2006.... This splendid decorated with over 80 of the most spectacular crane photographs ever assembled in one place. My only regret about this book is that I hadn't written it.

Great Plains Research Vol. 20 No. 1, Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Hughes has produced a wonderful....beautifully produced book .. She writes beautifully and has given us a book that should serve as the standard reference work for general readers.

Chronicle-Journal (Thunder Bay)

Cranes: A Natural History or a Bird in Crisis is a beautiful book about a beautiful bird and, unfortunately, a threatened one.

Lake Wah-Wash-Kesh Conservation Association