Atlas of Rare Birds by Dominic Couzens.
In association with Birdlife International.
Published by New Holland
There are few non-fiction books that should be read from cover to cover, but Atlas of Rare Birds is surely one of them. Dominic Couzens has produced yet another masterpiece. This sumptuous, indeed exquisite publication reminds us once again of the wonderful yet fragile existence of so many bird species on our planet. Illustrated with images of the highest photographic standard, from the remarkable front cover Kakapo with an apparent ‘tear’ running down its cheek to the White-eyed River Martin which, were it not for the photographs, would surely be rejected as too fanciful a discovery, this is a book whose main chararacters will enthuse birders and non-birders alike.
The ultimate guide to some of the scarcest birds in existence, Atlas of Rare Birds focuses on 50 of the most captivating stories that the ornithological world has ever known. It covers everything from the dramatic discoveries of birds new to science, such as Hooded Grebe and Nechisar Nightjar, and ‘back from the dead’ rediscoveries of species such as New Zealand Storm-petrel, to the remarkable 'back from the brink' success stories of Seychelles Magpie-Robin and California Condor, along with almost unbelievable tales such as that of the Udzungwa Forest Partridge, which was described as new to science following the discovery of its remains in a cooking pot.
The author notes “By its very nature, Atlas of Rare birds is a book of its time, and there is every chance that several of its characters will not be included in a future edition a few years along the line. In the ten chapters you can read the stories of how they came to become so rare, and how they are faring now.”
Each tale is brought to life through the author’s engaging style (Dominic really is one of the best nature writers in the business) and illustrated with a detailed distribution map and a remarkable collection of photographs and artwork. The clear colour maps help to tie together the stories and to show the global nature of the issues dealt with in the book. Many of the stunning photos are incredibly rare, such as the images of Ivory-billed Woodpecker in the USA in the 1930s, which are probably the only ones ever taken of the species.
The book is divided into chapters, each focusing on five species. The ten chapters introduce us to a varied conservation narrative of both pessimism and optimism, predictability and surprise as we read of birds that are starting again with just a few survivors; threatened birds confined to small spaces; peculiar ways to have become threatened; the difficulties of protecting birds on the move; once common birds in sudden danger; lost causes; controversial conservation; unexpected discoveries; missing birds rediscovered; along with birds in the pending tray – are they out there or not?
These are not the 50 rarest species on our planet, but those with a story to tell. In the introduction to Atlas of Rare Birds, Dominic states “One of the great weapons against impending extinction in birds is the knowledge about what is happening and the fostering of concern about all species. To that end, the book is dedicated to the many individuals and agencies who bring conservation to people’s awareness and take action in the field. ...My hope in writing this book is that, in its small way, it will also contribute to conservation“. Indeed it will.
Added gravitas is lent through the book’s endorsement from Birdlife International – the umbrella conservation organisation bringing together the RSPB and its national equivalent societies from hundreds of countries around the world. In short, Atlas of Rare Birds is a must-have title for birdwatchers, ornithologists and conservationists everywhere.
You can buy this book at a discount through Amazon.
Click here to buy in the UK
Click here to buy in the US
Dominic talks exclusively to surfbirds (click here) about the Atlas of Rare Birds project