On Ancient Wings: The Sandhill Cranes of North America

Article number: FORSBERG OAW
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Rising from sandbars on the Platte River with clarion calls, the sandhill crane (Grus canadensis) feels the urgency of spring migration. Elegant, noble, and spiritual, the sandhill crane is one of the most ancient of all birds. More than a half-million strong, flying in squadrons, these majestic creatures point northward to their Arctic and sub-Arctic breeding ranges. Theirs is an epic story of endurance through the ages.

With 153 stunning color photographs, On Ancient Wings presents sandhill cranes in their wild but increasingly compromised habitats today. Over the course of five years, Michael Forsberg documented the tall gray birds in habitats ranging from the Alaskan tundra, to the arid High Plains, from Cuban nature preserves to suburban backyards. With an eye for beauty and an uncommon persistence, the author documents the cranes’ challenges to adapt and survive in a rapidly changing natural world. Forsberg argues that humankind, for its own sake, should secure the cranes’ place in the future. On Ancient Wings intertwines the lives of cranes, people, and their common places to tell an ancient story at a time when sandhill cranes and their wetland and grassland habitats face daunting prospects.
University of Nebraska Press: 2004 | Hardcover: 168 pages, illustrated

About the Author

Michael Forsberg is a professional photographer whose work has been published worldwide and has won awards in the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year and Pictures of the Year competitions. His fine-art photographic prints can be found in private and public collections throughout the world. He lives in Lincoln, Nebraska. George Archibald is a co-founder of the International Crane Foundation and is considered the world’s leading authority on cranes. James Harris is the president of the International Crane Foundation.


"Shot from the Arctic tundra to suburban Florida, the intimate, at times stunning, photographs of these striking gray birds present a rich natural history of one of the world's oldest avian species."  —Audubon

"One photograph that's worth the price of Michael Forsberg's new book is a dramatically lit image of a single whooping crane, standing out stark against the whirring gray flock of sandhills. . . . The author's photographs and text convey and amazing range of experience, from the exuberance of the elaborate mating dance to the poignance of an individual crane's death."  —Charles J. Lohrmann, Texas Reader

"A fine tribute marries natural history and visual display, inviting audiences from natural history students to casual readers to partake."  —Bookwatch

"His sandhill cranes dance and huddle, soar in masses and wander in pairs. They are vulnerable balls of fuzz and fierce defenders of forage. Most are full of health and grace. One is motionless—dead, after flying into a powerline."  —Capital Times

"Michael Forsberg is a gifted photographer. I opened this book for a quick look, saw the first photograph, a stunning full-page photo of a dancing Sandhill crane leaping for the sky, and did not put the book down until I had looked at everyone one of its 154 photographs. . . . I found this book easy to read and enjoyable. It is not a technical study, but it left me with a better understanding of the Sandhill crane."  —Dale G. Hjertaas, Great Plains Research
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