~ Lawrence H. Walkinshaw (1904 - 1993) ~


Dr. Lawrence "Larry" Walkinshaw died 16 January 1993 at the age of 88. He was born 25 February 1904 in Calhoun County, Michigan, and graduated from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in 1929. Though a dentist by training, he was a leading authority on cranes on which he published 61 articles and two books: The Sandhill Cranes (1949) and Cranes of the World (1973). He described the Canadian sandhill crane (Grus canadensis rowani) in 1965. He published on other species as well, most notably Kirtland’s warbler, but he was first and foremost a "crane man."

Larry remained an active field ornithologist throughout his life. In 1934, on foot with Clara, his wife and to-be-field companion of 62 years, he recorded some of the first survey data on cranes and other birds in a remote area of the Michigan Upper Peninsula on what is now Seney National Wildlife Refuge, before it was a refuge. After retiring from dentistry, he divided time between homes near sandhill crane habitat in Florida and Michigan. Larry was a master bird observer, world crane lover, determined nest finder, and meticulous data collector. For many years there were few papers on cranes published in North America for which he did not serve as a refereeing authority. The dedication of the proceedings of the First International Crane Workshop to Dr. Walkinshaw appropriately identified him as "The Father of International Studies of Gruiformes." He was the constant mentor to succeeding generations of crane researchers.

One of Larry’s abiding concerns was recovery of the whooping crane. He participated in some of the original aerial searches to locate the then unknown breeding grounds of the only remaining migratory population before its eventual discovery in 1954. During his lifetime he saw the species climb back from a perilous low of 22 birds to nearly 250, with captive populations established and efforts underway to reintroduce whooping cranes to former range.

This kind and gentle man, whose contributions to science never flagged, will be missed by those of us who benefited from his counsel and were inspired by his spirit. The Dr. L. H. Walkinshaw Memorial Scholarship Fund has been established in his honor in the Department of Ornithology at Cornell University. The North American Crane Working Group has instituted the L. H. Walkinshaw Crane Conservation Award to recognize the outstanding crane biologists following in his footsteps. His life spanned 10 decades; his legacy will live forever.

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