"Cranes are ubiquitous in the earliest legends of the world's peoples, where they often figure as sentinels of heaven and omens of longevity and good fortune. For their great beauty and imposing size - they are the largest of all flying birds on earth - they are held near-sacred in many lands. Their broad wilderness habitat requirements make them "umbrella species": protecting them ensures that other creatures and the earth and water of the ecosystem are also protected. In addition, the enormous spans of cranes' migrations have encouraged international conservation efforts." "In The Birds of Heaven, Peter Matthiessen chronicles his many journeys in search of the world's fifteen species of cranes. From the vast taiga of Siberia's Amur basin and the Mongolian steppe, breeding grounds for the glorious red-crowned and white-naped cranes, his travels take him to India, Bhutan, China, Japan, and Korea, then on to Australia, Africa, and western Europe (where the native crane is being encouraged to return), and finally to Wisconsin, Nebraska, the Gulf Coast, and Florida, where ingenious efforts are under way to establish a nonmigratory population of the rare whooping crane. He is accompanied by erudite and passionate ornithologists and "craniacs," along with many fascinating regional people, from Mongolian nomads to Gujarati nawabs. Through their eyes as well as his own, he portrays the astonishingly tenacious cranes' struggles to survive in a rapidly developing world in which man is leaving less and less place for other creatures. He also captures the deep loss to humankind should these majestic creatures - their majesty illuminated by Robert Bateman's eloquent renderings - be permitted to disappear."--Jacket.