Kori Bustard

Associated Smithsonian Expert: Gary R. Graves, Ph.D.

Dr. Gary Graves had an early childhood fascination with birds that eventually led him to his role as curator of birds at the National Museum of Natural History.

Photo by Don Hurlburt, Smithsonian Institution

Dr. Gary Graves is a research zoologist and curator of birds at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History where his research focuses on the ecology, biogeography, and evolution of birds. His early childhood fascination with birds led to graduate studies at Louisiana State University and Florida State University: "I am unapologetically curious about natural history and the ways that natural history observations catalyze important ecological and evolutionary discoveries." His dissertation work focused on speciation of birds in the Andes Mountains of Peru. He has also conducted fieldwork in Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Colombia, Polynesia, Canada, and in more than half the states in the USA. His current research efforts are split between the analysis of complex data sets based on the collective resources of the World's great museums and conducting field research in Jamaica, the great forests of the eastern USA, and in the Sonoran Desert.

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This image was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. The image or its contents may be protected by international copyright laws.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist works to help populations of the Mississippi Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis pulla)
Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, public domain


About Cranes and Rails (Order Gruiformes): Conservation

Gruiformes are mostly ground-living birds, nesting in grasslands, marshes, and forests. On the ground, they are vulnerable to predators. Stoats introduced from Britain to New Zealand in the 1800s nearly wiped out the native takahe (Notornis mantelli). Impacts to grasslands, such as mechanical hay harvest, also destroy nests. European colonization of the U.S. was a disaster for whooping cranes (Grus americana). Hunting and agriculture reduced a thriving population of more than 10,000 to only 15 cranes. Conservation actions such as captive rearing have helped many gruiformes. The whooping crane population has increased to several hundred individuals, thanks to clever ideas such as using ultralight planes to teach migration routes to young birds. However, crane populations continue to be threatened by collisions with power lines, shooting, and predators. Several other crane species are listed on the "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species". Cranes are a symbol of good luck in Asian countries, but may need some good luck themselves to survive in the future.