Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The World's Rarest Birds - Review - 14 May 2013

The World's Rarest Birds
Erik Hirschfeld, Andy Swash & Robert Still

Cloth | 2013 | $45.00 / £34.95 | ISBN: 9780691155968
360 pp. | 8 1/2 x 11 | 103 color illus. 977 color photos. 610 color maps.
Page spreads to view

Hold an international photo contest challenging people to photograph the rarest birds on the planet, then select the most stunning photographs depicting 515 of the 590 species classified as Endangered or Critically Endangered, and you have a coffee-table sized book that is as beautiful to behold as the birds it pays homage to. The World's Rarest Birds is written by Erik Hirschfeld, Andy Swash and Robert Still.  Together the three authors have put together a rich volume that combines education and conservation, describing the dangers and challenges the world's rarest birds face across Europe, Africa, Middle East, Australasia and North America, including the world's Oceans.

BirdLife International tracks the current status for all known species of birds and classifies them according to their population status.  For example, turn to page 248 of the World's Rarest Birds, and you quickly learn that 1912 species are recognized in The Caribbean, and North and Central America. Of those 1912 species there 0 known Extinct in the Wild (EW), 22 Critically Endangered (CR), 43 Endangered (EN), 85 Vulnerable (VU) and 4 species that are Data Deficient (DD).  A further breakdown of each category is made for each region, and a table shows an even further breakdown by bird family.  The next 15 pages then provides species accounts for 60 of these birds, including their threatened status, a map of their known populations, and photographs depicting the birds.  Where no photographs could be found, the artist Tomasz Cofta had provided rich illustrations that best describe the bird should someone come across it the wild (such as the Eskimo Curlew), along with records of its last sighting.

The introductory chapters of this book are most fascinating.  They describe the World's Rarest Initiative, describes the locations were Important Bird Areas and Endemic Bird Areas are located, describes the Red List  Categories and how species are assigned, all the while plastering the pages with stunning photos of birds that most of will never see in a lifetime.

For anyone even remotely interested in bird conservation and preservation this is a must-have book.  I found it a joy to read, and as a bird photographer myself, was ever so impressed with the quality of the photographs and the painstaking details the authors put forth to bring to light the plight of our feathered friends.

Many thanks to Princeton University Press for a review copy of this book.

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