13 Snapshots of the World’s Rarest Birds

Winner: Quan Min Li: a beautiful photo of a flying Asian Crested Ibis from China.

Have you ever stopped and listened to the calls of birds in your area or a forest? Or marveled as they swooped and dived in flight? Birds are one of the wonders of our world, from the smallest hummingbird to the largest living bird, the ostrich, yet hundreds of species are threatened with extinction, with many already extinct. The World’s Rarest Birds project has joined with Birdlife International in an effort to highlight the plight of the most threatened of these, and one of their first steps was a photo competition to find images of the rarest of all in three categories, which will be published in a book next year. We are lucky to have all 13 winning photos to share with you in the meantime.

The beautiful crested ibis has white plumage with red or pink skin that shines through. Once plentiful throughout Asia, now only a few individuals are left, with estimates of between 50 and 250 living in the world. Listed as endangered, there is some good news as the Chinese and Japanese governments are taking measures to conserve and protect this special bird. Through protected areas and captive breeding programs, the population is slowly increasing overall. There is a small enclave of wild crested ibis in the Shanxi province in China, while Japan has reintroduced 10 birds to the wild with a goal of 60 by 2015.



Winner: Shane McInnes: a wonderful image of a Kakapo, a flightless parrot from New Zealand.

The critically endangered Kakapo, one of the world’s few flightless birds and a member of the parrot family, is the heaviest parrot, is one of the longest living, and is nocturnal and herbivorous. As of 2010 there were only 124 individuals known, so few that each one of them has been given a name and a radio transmitter.

The Kakapo Recovery Plan has done herculean work to preserve and increase the population. All known kakapos were relocated to two islands where stoats and feral cats had been removed, Codfish and Anchor Island. Both islands will hold 100 kakapos each and work is ongoing to find a suitable island where one day kakapos will be able to live free from human management such as the sanctuaries. Two possibilities have been identified by the department of conservation and it seems some work is already being done to prepare them. Out of all the birds on the list, the kakapo has a good chance because the government is so intimately involved in trying to protect the species.