Cranes are large, long-legged and long-necked birds of the order Gruiformes, and family Gruidae. Unlike the similar-looking but unrelated herons, cranes fly with necks outstretched, not pulled back. There are representatives of this group on all the continents except Antarctica and South America. Most species of cranes are at least threatened, if not critically endangered, within their range. The plight of the Whooping Cranes of North America inspired some of the first US legislation to protect endangered species.