Two of the most famous comeback stories of endangered birds — those of the Bermuda Petrel and Whooping Crane — are recounted in remarkable detail in these wonderful new biographies.
As a young man in Bermuda, David Wingate helped rediscover the petrel known locally as the Cahow, and he devoted his career to bringing it back from the edge of extinction. His story has been told in films, magazines (including this one), and newspapers, but it has never been told more completely than it is in Rare Birds. Author Elizabeth Gehrman explains how the colonization of the island led to the bird’s downfall and presumed extinction, and she describes with care and honesty Wingate’s decades-long effort to restore it to its native nesting areas.
Far less well known is Robert Porter Allen, the subject of Kathleen Kaska’s The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane. Beginning in 1946, he led the National Audubon Society’s efforts to locate the crane’s breeding grounds in the remote Canadian wilderness. The search lasted nine years and garnered widespread media attention, but Allen’s name is all but forgotten today. Black flies, mosquitoes, dehydration — Allen endured them all and more. Kaska reminds us of the extraordinary effort required to keep a magnificent bird from slipping into oblivion.
Rare Birds: The Extraordinary Tale of the Bermuda Petrel and the Man Who Brought It Back from Extinction by Elizabeth Gehrman, Beacon Press, 2012, 256 pages, $26.95, $13.99 Kindle Edition.
The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story by Kathleen Kaska, University Press of Florida, 2012, 256 pages, $26.95 cloth, $14.99 Kindle Edition.
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