The World's Rarest Birds


This illustrated book vividly depicts the most endangered birds in the world and provides the latest information on the threats each species faces and the measures being taken to save them. Today, 571 bird species are classified as critically endangered or endangered, and a further four now exist only in captivity. This landmark book features stunning photographs of 500 of these species—the results of a prestigious international photographic competition organized specifically for this book. It also showcases ...

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This illustrated book vividly depicts the most endangered birds in the world and provides the latest information on the threats each species faces and the measures being taken to save them. Today, 571 bird species are classified as critically endangered or endangered, and a further four now exist only in captivity. This landmark book features stunning photographs of 500 of these species—the results of a prestigious international photographic competition organized specifically for this book. It also showcases paintings by acclaimed wildlife artist Tomasz Cofta of the 75 species for which no photos are known to exist.

The World's Rarest Birds has introductory chapters that explain the threats to birds, the ways threat categories are applied, and the distinction between threat and rarity. The book is divided into seven regional sections—Europe and the Middle East; Africa and Madagascar; Asia; Australasia; Oceanic Islands; North America, Central America, and the Caribbean; and South America. Each section includes an illustrated directory to the bird species under threat there, and gives a concise description of distribution, status, population, key threats, and conservation needs. This one-of-a-kind book also provides coverage of 62 data-deficient species.

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Editorial Reviews - Emma Bryce
A dense, richly informative book. . . . Offers a showcase of struggling birds globally—but each shot through a lens that celebrates their diversity, vibrance, elegance, and enthusiastic displays.
Birdbooker Report - Ian Paulsen
A must have for those with an interest in bird conservation.
Birdwatching - Brad Sylvester
A coffee table treasure or a rainy day home birding experience. I highly recommend The World's Rarest Birds as a valuable addition to the libraries of conservationists and birders alike.
Science Blogs - Greg Laden
The book is educational, promotes conservation, looks nice, but at the same time is a reference source for those rare birds. . . . The World's Rarest Birds is like that stuff you put in your gas tank to add oomph to your engine, but with birdbooks. A regional library of references will suddenly have high octane information on some of the least known species.
Another Bird Blog - Phil Slade
The content makes for disturbing reading, packed as it is with evidence and insight into how man is slowly but surely eliminating many of Planet Earth's 10,000 bird species. . . . As the publishers quite rightly say with their accompanying literature, 'this is a book that we all wish wasn't necessary' (my emphasis). This is a sentiment that will resonate to most reading this blog but the book needs to find a wider audience rather than simply reach the already converted. The World's Rarest Birds deserves that wider audience and I sincerely hope it reaches them; otherwise we may need to produce another and more desperate volume in a short number of years. Let's hope not. This is a great book, and I have a suggestion. Buy two and send one copy to your elected representative at the highest level possible.
Nutty Birder - Rob Ripma
Absolutely fascinating from start to finish. . . . A must have for all bird lovers!
Portland Press Herald - Herb Wilson
This fine book is simultaneously fascinating and saddening.
Birds from Behind blog - Dave Lewis
Gorgeous. . . . The details and facts listed are astounding.
Birding New Jersey - Dan Murray
Outstanding. . . . A great read and a[n] exceptional contribution to the global Ornithological community.
Wildlife Conservation Examiner - Cathy Taibbi
Bring[s] to life what might otherwise be an abstract idea devoid of the impetus of emotion—the glory and wonder of nature, and the truly, dazzlingly, urgent need to protect what's left of it.
Towhee Blog - Harry Fuller
If you're a world birder or an armchair birder this is a fascinating if sobering book.
A Charm of Finches - Penny Miller
Beautiful. . . . The book is intended to educate and mobilize birders, naturalists and the general public to take action to save threatened birds and to raise awareness for the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme.
Passionate Birder - Bill Saur
Filled with beautiful pictures and drawings, and a wealth of information on endangered bird species, this book is an absolute must-have for anyone interested in bird conservation, and a delight for people everywhere who love birds and enjoy learning about them.
Wildlife Extra
I loved this book; I would include it as one of the top books of the year. - Gabriel Thoumi
An extraordinary bird book. . . . If you support conservation, and wish to protect the Earth's rarest birds, you need to read The World's Rarest Birds. - Beth Buczynski
A monumental effort to elevate the visibility of bird conservation efforts worldwide.
Rare Bird Alert - Andy Stoddart
As well as being well-researched, authoritative and up to date, this is also an impressive product. It is large-format, heavy and substantial with a 'quality feel' and is liberally illustrated throughout. Unfortunately, it is not a particularly joyful read for it is disturbing to find not only Velvet Scoter but also such species as Egyptian Vulture within its pages. Reading this book is therefore something of a bitter-sweet experience. It is a beautiful production and the birds are alluring indeed but their possibly brief tenure on this planet provides ample cause for despair.
Birder's Library - Grant McCreary
Extraordinary images and design, along with authoritative text, make The World's Rarest Birds the best book on rare birds of the world that I've seen. I'm very glad to have it, but at the same time saddened that it has to exist at all. But since there are birds in trouble we need a book like this to tell their stories. It belongs on the table—not the shelf—of anyone who cares about birds.
Birding Community e-Bulletin
This lovely, coffee-table sized book is a wonder. . . . The take away lesson in this book is obvious: The species described in the book are in peril; conservation actions for each are necessary, and time is of the essence.
Panda's Thumb - Matt Young
[A] splendid book. . . . Those who read the book will be like the blind men and the elephant. Photographers will see a photography book. Birdwatchers will see a field guide to rare birds. Conservationists will see extinction. And dilettantes will see a coffee-table book. All will be in some measure correct.
Birding Frontiers - Keith Clarkson
[A] remarkable book. . . . The 'coffee table' format belies the extraordinary amount of research and the sheer volume of information presented. The authors have produced a reference book of outstanding quality. But this is no ordinary reference book to be occasionally picked off the shelf, dusted down and browsed rather it is a treasure chest of stories of discovery, loss and re-discovery. I found each visit to these beautifully presented pages unearthed more gems and yet more extraordinary insights into our most threatened birdlife.
Booklist - Linda Scarth
[A] handsome volume. . . . Most people will never see an Australian night parrot, a Floreana mockingbird, or a Jamaican pauraque. This book is an inexpensive way for birders and general readers to travel the world to see the rare and endangered. Perhaps it can motivate more people to manage habitats for all species.
Science News
This guide, filled with photos and descriptions of conservation efforts, illustrates the perils faced by rare and endangered avian species.
South China Morning Post - David Diskin
It can only be hoped that this beautiful book succeeds, however modestly, in its aim of increasing awareness of these threatened species—and of birds like the great knot that may well become endangered in the near future given the unsustainable path that we seem to be following. - Guy de Federicis
An essential and timely study of conservationism and natural history.
Birding is Fun - Robert Mortensen
Gorgeous photography, cool maps, graphs and tables, all will entice you to learn more about these birds and to care.
Shanghai Daily - Wan Lixin
A beautifully illustrated book vividly depicting the most endangered birds on our once beautiful planet, elaborating on the threats confronting these species, and the measures needed to protect them from dying out.
Washington Post - Maggie Fazeli Fard
A vivid portrait of animals under threat.
GrrlScientist - Devorah Bennu
This gorgeous oversized hardcover is a roll-call of the world's endangered birds, listed by region. . . . [A]nyone who loves birds will learn a lot from this sobering reference that documents the variety of endangered birds and the tragic thoroughness and destructive reach of man'kind.'
From the Publisher
"This substantial volume, with the motto 'Let the birds speak for themselves', gives visual and textual confirmation to the threats faced by a substantial fraction of the birds of the world. Hirschfeld, Swash, and Still provide images and conservation information for 650 avian species worldwide, focusing the reader's attention on the varieties of problems avifauna face. . . . This valuable work deserves a place in every library ornithology collection."—Choice

"The World's Rarest Birds, though hefty, is so valuable: It offers short informative profiles of 591 of the most at-risk species, the birds classified as Endangered, Critically Endangered, or Extinct in the Wild. Instead of numbers on a chart, it allows us to see Cuba's Zapata Wren, Kenya's Taita Thrush, South America's Yellow Cardinal, and other species as birds worth caring about. A photo or a painting depicts each one—an astonishing accomplishment."—Joel Greenberg, Bird Watching

"Essential for birders, both armchair and actual, and readers in ecology and conservation. The scope, depth and organization are exemplary."—Sally Bickley, Library Journal

"A landmark volume of unparalleled coverage. . . . An exemplary volume of long-term value, teaching us never to take for granted the presence of birds in our lives."—Library Journal Best Sci-Tech Books of 2013

"This fascinating table-sized book contains a wealth of data on the world's rarest birds. It is loaded with nice photos, tables and maps."—FHB, Wildlife Activist

"This landmark book features stunning photographs of 500 of these species—the results of a prestigious international photographic competition organized specifically for this book. . . . [O]ne-of-a-kind."—World Book Industry

"This book is one of the most important bird publications ever."—Bill Harvey, BirdingASIA

Library Journal
Ornithologist Hirschfeld, zoologist and editor Andy Swash, and naturalist Robert Sill collaborated with scientists and photographers on this book, which provides 2012 data on population, distribution, and threats to survival of several hundred bird species, using the Red List of Bird Life International and the International Union of Conservations of Nature as their authorized sources. More than 977 color photos come from winners of a contest to secure these images, showing shots of all but 75 of the 650 endangered, critically endangered, and data-deficient bird species included. The other birds, of which there are no known photographs, are represented by illustrations. After chapters outlining the threats facing birds, the distribution of endangered birds, and definitions of threat categories, the book is divided by region, each section containing information on the threatened birds there, including common and scientific names, threat level (endangered, critically endangered, extinct in the wild), estimated population, threats endangering this species (agriculture, water use, pollution), a photo or illustration, distribution map, and a QR code linking to BirdLife International's regularly updated information on the species' status. VERDICT Essential for birders, both armchair and actual, and readers in ecology and conservation. The scope, depth and organization is exemplary. The links to regularly updated information through the QR codes means the book's value will continue.—Sally Bickley, Del Mar Coll. Lib., Corpus Christi, TX
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691155968
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 4/14/2013
  • Pages: 360
  • Sales rank: 268,659
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Erik Hirschfeld works in air traffic control management and is a freelance writer, guide, and consultant in ornithology. Andy Swash is managing director of WILD"Guides" and a professional wildlife photographer, naturalist, author, and guide. Robert Still is an ecologist, widely traveled naturalist, and graphic artist who designs books that encourage people to take a greater interest in the natural world.

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Table of Contents

The World's Rarest initiative 7
Introduction to the world's birds 8

  • Diversity and distribution 8
  • Endemic Bird Areas 8
  • Important Bird Areas 9
  • Birds and humans 10

The world's rarest birds 11

  • The IUCN/BirdLife species category assignment process 12
  • Going or gone? 16
  • The known unknowns 20
  • The distribution of threatened birds 22
  • Last chances to save 24

The threats birds face 25

  • Agriculture and aquaculture 28
  • Logging/plant harvesting 30
  • Invasive and other problematic species 32
  • Hunting and trapping 34
  • Residential and commercial development 36
  • Fire and fire management 38
  • Climate change and severe weather 39
  • Geological events 40
  • Human disturbance 41
  • Pollution 42
  • Transport and other infrastructure 44
  • Energy production and mining 45
  • Dams and water abstraction 46
  • Fishing 47

The need for conservation 48
Threats without borders 50

The Regional Directories (see overleaf for full listing) 54

  • Structure of the regional sections 54
  • Glossary of terms 56

Acknowledgements 332
Appendix 1 - Extinct Species 336
Appendix 2 - The bird families with globally threatened species 339
Index 347

The Regional Directories

Europe and the Middle East 58

  • The conservation challenges 62
  • Regional Directory 64

Africa and Madagascar 68

  • Africa and Madagascar - the conservation challenges 72
  • Threatened bird hotspot - Madagascar 74
  • Threatened bird hotspot - Angola 76
  • Conservation challenge - Grassland Management 78
  • Regional Directory 80

Asia 100

  • Asia - the conservation challenges 104
  • Threatened bird hotspot - The Philippines 106
  • Threatened bird hotspot - Indonesia 108
  • Conservation challenge - Vultures 110
  • Conservation challenge - Bustards 112
  • Conservation challenge - Hornbills 114
  • Conservation challenge - The world's most threatened flyway 116
  • Regional Directory 118

Australasia 150

  • Australasia - the conservation challenges 154
  • Threatened bird hotspot - Australia 156
  • Threatened bird hotspot - New Zealand 158
  • Threatened bird hotspot - Australasian Islands 160
  • Threatened bird hotspot - New Caledonia 162
  • Regional Directory 164

Oceanic Islands 180

  • Oceanic islands - the conservation challenges 186
  • Threatened bird hotspot - Hawaii 190
  • Threatened bird hotspot - Polynesia & Micronesia 194
  • Threatened bird hotspot - Galápagos 196
  • Threatened bird hotspot - Indian Ocean Islands 198
  • Threatened bird hotspot - Atlantic Ocean Islands 200
  • Conservation challenge - The albatross conundrum 202
  • Regional Directory 206

The Caribbean, North and Central America 236

  • The threatened birds - an overview 240
  • Threatened bird hotspot - The Caribbean 242
  • Threatened bird hotspot - North America 244
  • Threatened bird hotspot - Central America 246
  • Regional Directory 248

South America 264

  • South America - the bird continent 268
  • Threatened bird hotspot - Chocó (Colombia and Ecuador) 270
  • Threatened bird hotspot - Peru 272
  • Threatened bird hotspot - The Amazon Basin 274
  • Threatened bird hotspot - The Atlantic Forest 276
  • Conservation challenge - Hunting and trapping 278
  • Regional Directory 280

Data Deficient Species 322

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