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The World's Rarest Birds

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TWRB-COVER Three years in the making, this unique and beautifully illustrated book highlights the plight of the rarest and most threatened birds on Earth. It has been produced to support BirdLife International's Preventing Extinctions Programme.

Every four years, BirdLife International undertakes a comprehensive review of the threat status of all the world’s 10,000 or so bird species on behalf of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The most threatened are categorized as Critically Endangered or Endangered, which means that they are likely to become extinct in the forseeable future unless urgent action is taken to conserve them. In addition, four species are categorized as Extinct in the Wild and now exist only in captivity. The latest review was completed in 2012 and lists a frightening total of 590 species in these categories.

The World’s Rarest Birds is a landmark publication that illustrates all these birds. It features stunning photographs of 515 of them – including images from two prestigious international photo competitions organized specifically for this book. For the 75 species of which a photo could not be obtained, the highly acclaimed artist Tomasz Cofta has created wonderfully realistic illustrations. The book also covers 60 species that are so poorly known that their threat status cannot be assessed (the so-called Data Deficient Species).

Introductory chapters explain the threats birds face, how their threat status is assessed, and how this information is used to set conservation priorities. 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 highlights particular conservation challenges and threatened bird hotspots, and includes a comprehensive illustrated directory of the most threatened birds, giving a concise description of their distribution, status, population, key threats, and conservation needs. Quick Response (QR) Codes are included for every species, linked directly to the relevant species factsheet on BirdLife International’s website, where detailed, up-to-date information is freely available.

Here are the technical details about the book:

  • Large format, hardback with dust jacket (8½ x 11 inches / 216 x 279 mm)
  • 360 pages
  • 877 colour photos (the work of 321 photographers from around the world)
  • 103 colour illustrations by Tomasz Cofta
  • 610 colour maps
  • ISBN: 978-0-691-15596-8
  • Published by Princeton WILDGuides
  • Recommended price just $45 or £34.95


The World’s Rarest Birds could not have been produced without the contribution of many people. Grateful thanks are due to all the photographers who generously submitted their images and to the sponsors of the photo competitions - Minox, Princeton University Press, Lynx Edicions, WILDGuides and BirdLife International. Thanks are also due to County Ornithological Services of Maidenhead, Berkshire, UK, for enabling complimentary copies of the book to be sent to BirdLife Partners around the world.


The World’s Rarest Birds is the successor to the Rare Birds Yearbook, which highlighted the Critically Endangered species and was published in 2007 and 2008. This proved to be very effective in raising funds to support BirdLife's Preventing Extinctions Programme.