The World

The World

Emma Bryce
Published: 04/03/2013

An endangered Swift Parrot (Photo copyright David Stowe)


Ever wondered what a white-bellied cinclodes looked like in full display? Or just how silvery the silvery woodpigeon is? Now, a series of bold images will tell you, as Princeton University Press announces the winners of a photography competition designed to highlight the plight of endangered—and often unknown—birds.   

The competition culminated in a dense, richly informative book titled The World’s Rarest Birds, intended to support Bird Life International’s Preventing Extinctions Programme. It's being released today, and it offers a showcase of struggling birds globally—but each shot through a lens that celebrates their diversity, vibrance, elegance, and enthusiastic displays. The competition was the second of two designed to draw attention to threatened species and to fill the forthcoming book with images of their grandeur. The first was in 2010, and the latest ran in 2012, inviting applicants for two categories: critically endangered birds, and endangered birds.

For critically endangered birds, a photo of the white-bellied cinclodes took first place, showing the bird with it wings outspread, its beak opened in song (see below). It’s the only known photograph of this species in display mode.


White-bellied Cinclodes (Photo copyright Dubi Shapiro)


In the endangered category, an image of the Marquesan Imperial-pigeon won, showing the gentle bird sitting demurely against a backdrop of hazy blues and greens (below). The bird looks peaceful somehow, despite being part of a tiny population spread across only two islands on Earth.


Marquesan Imperial-pigeon (Photo copyright Tim Laman)


Other winners, runners-up, and commended images included those showing the eerie-eyed Madagascar Pochard (below), the collective takeoff of Yellow-crested Cockatoos (below), the neon-painted Swift Parrot (above), and the Long-whiskered Owlet (below)—a grandfatherly creature which frowns almost disapprovingly at the watcher.


Madagascar Pochard (Photo copyright Dubi Shapiro)

Yellow-crested Cockatoo (Photo copyright Chris Newbold)

Long-whiskered Owlet (Photo copyright Dubi Shapiro)


Many featured birds are badly threatened. The Narcondam Hornbill (below) comes from a population of only 250 for instance. The Masked Finfoot’s (below) dependence on shrinking wetland habitats is challenging its livelihood. With the plethora of birds in the book, stories of their struggle and survival abound.


Narcondam Hornbill (Photo copyright Niranjan Sant)

Masked Finfoot (Photo copyright Myron Tay)


A major success is that The World’s Rarest Birds features 590 threatened bird species, and has photographs of 515. For species lacking a photograph, illustrations take their place, perhaps indicative of the extreme elusiveness and rarity of those particular birds. Ade Long, BirdLife International’s Head of Communications said in the Princeton University Press release, “This is a fantastic book, but it provides a powerful reminder of the large number of species—many of them extremely beautiful—that are on the brink of extinction.”


The book's cover