Lawrence Harvey Walkinshaw was born in Calhoun County, Michigan in 1904. He grew up on a farm in Pennfield and Convis townships and attended Olivet College in a nearby county before transferring and completing his undergraduate work and a Doctoral in dental surgery from the University of Michigan, in 1929. He began his dental practice in Battle Creek, Michigan in July of 1929. He continued his practice dentistry for nearly 40 years, retiring in 1968.
When Dr. Walkinshaw was 11 his mother showed him the first bird nest he had ever seen, a chipping sparrow nest with a cowbird egg in it. Within two years, he had established a bluebird route around the family farm that contained about 15 nesting boxes. He became interested in wildlife naturally while growing up since Dr. Walkinshaw's father, a farmer, was devoted to hunting, fishing, and trapping. Through his father he became more closely in touch with wildlife and identifying species.
1931 was a defining year for Dr. Walkinshaw, in May of that year he met the woman who was to become his wife, discovered his first crane nest, and traveled north to Lovells, where he became interested in Kirtland's warblers after finding a nest of one of these birds while camping. The following year he returned and became the first person ever to band a Kirtland's warbler, capturing the bird by hand. He went on to band over 600 Kirtland's warblers in his lifetime. In 1983 the Cranbrook Institute of Science published Dr. Walkinshaw's third book, The Kirtland's Warbler: The Natural History of an Endangered Species.
In 1961 while still practicing dentistry, Dr. Walkinshaw began to gather material for his book, Cranes of the World. In 1961 and 1962 he journeyed to Egypt, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia, Uganda, and Sudan. The following year he visited Denmark, Sweden, and Poland and in 1965 he went to Nigeria and Ethiopia. In 1968-69, after retiring from dental practice, he traveled to Australia, Japan and India to study cranes. Dr. Walkinshaw worked with the late Miles Pirnie, a waterfowl specialist who taught at Michigan State University, and Bernard Baker, a businessman who was interested in birds, to acquire a 490-acre tract in Calhoun County as a sanctuary for Sandhill Cranes. Baker, whose business was selling secondhand auto parts, put up the money, and the land was acquired in 1941. It was named the Baker Sanctuary in his honor. While studying and researching Sandhill Cranes around the United States and the world, Dr. Walkinshaw also found time to co-edit the Jack-Pine Warbler, the magazine published by the Michigan Audubon Society and serve as the society's sanctuary chairman, from 1939 to 1948. He also served as president of the Wilson Ornithological Society in 1959-60 and for three years as secretary of the American Ornithologists Union. He was president of the Southwestern Michigan Dental Society in 1945-46.
In addition to his three books on cranes and Kirtland's warblers, Dr. Walkinshaw authored several books brought out by University Microfilms International in Ann Arbor -- Birds of the Battle Creek Area in 1978, The Sandhill Crane and I in 1987, Nesting of the Florida and Cuban Sandhill Cranes in 1987, Life History of the Eastern Field Sparrow in Calhoun County in 1978, and Nest Observations of the Kirtland's Warbler -- A Half Century Quest in 1988.
To learn more about Lawrence Walkinshaw please visit: Michigan Profile, Lawrence H. Walkinshaw: Bird Man of the World