Many of us have heard less knowledgeable people identify Great Blue Herons as cranes, but Matthiessen points out that this misidentification, so common in modern day America is nothing new. Linnaeus …named the Eurasian, or common crane, “Ardea grus,” or Crane Heron, and in the nineteenth century, Audubon would portray a Heron as the “little blue crane”.
Reading this book we also learn that Siberian natives call the lesser Sandhill Crane the crane from the east, although we in North America regard it as a western species. We also hear of the “Accidental Paradise,” Matthiessen’s term for the Korean Demilitarized Zone, which has become a refuge for the Red-crowned Crane, Hooded Crane, and the White-naped Crane.
In his travels Matthiessen (born 1927) has encountered each of the many species of cranes. I place this book in a class with The Snow Leopard, for which he won the National Book Award. Matthiesen died in New York earlier this year.