Introducing the Whooping Crane Expert
Meet Whooping Crane Expert, Laura Erickson
Journey North Science Writer
1) Any childhood memory that was important in guiding you into your occupation?;
how did you become interested in this Field?
I was very little, if I was noisy in the morning when my mother was trying to sleep,
she'd make me come in her bed. I was never sleepy in the morning, so I decided to
start reading the encyclopedias on her bed headboard bookcase. I started with A and
read all the way through that one. Then I started the B one, and read all the way
through BIRD. That article was so fascinating that after that, I just read about
birds over and over and over, until I had the whole long article about birds memorized.
I lived in Chicago, and didn't know how to learn about birds other than that enclyclopedia
article, but I loved listening to House Sparrows cheeping at dusk, and robins and
cardinals singing early in the morning. I spent a lot of time whistling to cardinals
and getting them to whistle back.
2) Any person, role model or leading authority that greatly influenced you? (a
parent, 6th grade teacher, scientist etc...)
My fifth grade teacher was very understanding about how I cared about animals
but still wanted to learn all about them. When our class dissected worms, I had trouble
choosing an earthworm to dissect, because I identified with them. He told me he would
find me a worm that was already dead. Unfortunately, none of my teachers was a bird
watcher or helped me learn more about them. But I'm proud that I figured out how
on my own.
3) Your background:(job title, profession, education/training etc...)
I started out as a teacher, with a degree in elementary education and two years
of graduate courses in environmental education, taking lots of zoology classes. When
I was teaching junior high school in Madison, Wisconsin, I started writing articles
about birds for the newspaper there. In Duluth, when I was staying at home while
my kids were little, I started doing a little radio program about birds--soon people
were bringing me hurt birds to take care of, and so I learned how to do it right
and got a license to rehabilitate wildlife. This is how I got interested in nighthawks,
from taking care of them, and soon started wondering about some things about how
their bodies worked, and started studying about that. I'm sort of working on a Ph.D.
studying nighthawk digestion right now, but haven't been able to devote any time
to it in a while. Now I mainly write about birds for Journey North, and work on books
and magazine and newspaper articles, too.
4) Favorite work story or experience: (One of your most exciting, memorable, or exhilarating
experiences in the Field!)
I think winning the National Outdoor Book Award for Sharing the Wonder of Birds
with Kids is what I 'm proudest of
Every year I do surveys for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/National Biological
Survey. I've had a lot of cool experiences--like imitating a baby raven and getting
the parents to fly right down within inches of me, looking to see where I was hiding
the baby. Once I whistled back to a Pine Grosbeak and it came closer and closer until
it lighted right on my finger! I've had a Golden-crowned and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet
land on me, too.
The first nighthawk I ever took care of was ready to be released in August, on an
evening when lots of nighthawks were migrating. He flew up in the sky and headed
west (to clear Lake Superior) straight into the setting sun.
But suddenly he turned around and flew right back to me! He circled over my head
two or three times, as if he really wanted to say good-by, and then left for good.
5) What advice can you provide to a student who might be interested in working in
your occupation some day?
Learn as much about math and science as you can, and when you have to write a
report about anything, try to have fun with it. Explain the things about the topic
that really interest you, and write it in a way that tries to get your teacher really
6) Any family members, including pets?
I am a mom with 3 kids--a 17-year old son, 15-year-old daughter, and 13-year-old
son. We have a big dog named Betsy and a little dog named Photon (named because she's
like a tiny particle of light and energy). I also have a parrot named Pickles and
a lovebird named Rosie.
7) Favorite book(s), Favorite food(s), Any hobbies?
I love reading just about any bird book. My favorites are The Audubon Society
Encyclopedia of North American Birds (it has just about EVERYTHING a person could
want to know about birds), The Nights of the Pufflings, a really neat non-fiction
picture story book about some kids in Iceland who save thousands of baby puffins
all on their own every year, and Kingbird Highway by Kenn Kaufman, about how a teenager
spent a year birdwatching all over North America, seeing 671 species in a single
year. I've been birding for 25 years, and last spring reached my goal of seeing 600
species in North America. Now my goal is to search for birds farther away. Next stop:
My favorite foods are pizza and ice cream. I like writing haikus and watching all
kinds of movies.
- Click here to
learn more about Laura, the wonderful books she's written, and much more information
"For the Birds".
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