eBook Review: The World’s Rarest Birds

[This is a cross-post from my guest post at Nemesis Bird on Monday]

The World’s Rarest Birds by Erik Hirschfeld, Andy Swash, and Robert Still; published by Princeton University Press (April 2013). TheWorld'sRarestBirds

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The World’s Rarest Birds began as an international photo competition held by BirdLife International, to assemble a collection of photographs and to document birds around the globe listed as Endangered, Critically Endangered, Extinct in the Wild, and Data Deficient on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The World’s Rarest Birds is a wonderful book, though it’s unfortunate we live in a world where such a book is necessary.

Princeton University Press recently released the title as an eBook on iTunes, and I’m delighted to be reviewing it after receiving a copy from Drew at Nemesis Bird. Thank you to Drew for the code, and a reminder that the following opinions are my own.

There are 590 bird species in the world classified as Endangered or Critically Endangered by BirdLife International. This book features beautiful photographs of 515 of them and is the first time images of certain species have been published. For the 75 remaining species, which are either extinct or no photos are known to exist, artist Tomasz Cofta has created very helpful illustrations.


The beginning chapters assess the threats facing birds, from hunting, climate change, and agriculture, to geological events. Each threat is summarised globally with examples of species particularly affected by that particular threat. Additional chapters are devoted to extinct species, globally threatened bird families, and to data deficient species. Many species around the world face multiple major threats to their populations and we can only hope that with more awareness and some human help, bird species can rebound so they don’t fade into history.

The body of the book is the species accounts. This part is divided into seven regional sections: Europe & the Middle East, Africa & Madagascar, Asia, Australasia, Oceanic Islands, the Caribbean, North & Central America, and South America. Each regional section highlights main conservation challenges and threatened bird hotspots, followed by an illustrated directory of the most threatened or endangered birds in the region.


Each species description includes a photograph or illustration, the IUCN Red List category, population size and trends, the key threats, a distribution map, and a QR code (quick response bar code) with a direct link to the factsheet of the species on the Birdlife International website.


This may look like a coffee table book, but it is a comprehensive catalogue of endangered bird life around the world, and an important tool in creating awareness about the threats facing bird species. The eBook format also makes it very useful for travellers and twitchers, since the print version is quite large and heavy. For anyone interested in bird conservation, The World’s Rarest Birds is a must have. It’s incredibly well-designed, with well-written and informative text, and all the photos bring each species to life. This book deserves a special place on the shelf or, in this case, iDevice, whether you’re a birder, a naturalist, or conservationist.

Birding with an iPad, and a Giveaway!

More birders are now using technology such as tablets and smartphones, and there are many bird-related apps which can help ID birds in the field, submit checklists (eBird), and more. In this post I’m going to round up some useful bird apps, including my favorites.

Stay tuned until the end of this post for the giveaway details!

AppscollageField Guides:

Many field guides have been made into apps, which makes going birding much easier because you don’t have to lug around heavy books. In fact, with a smartphone or tablet, you can take an entire bookshelf with you. Most of the major field guides are available as apps and most offer multiple audio files for almost every species; the search function makes it very easy to search for birds. I have most of the following apps on my iPad, many of which are compatible on other iSO devices even Android.

— Sibley eGuide to Birds of North America ($19.99); I’m a fan of David Sibley’s illustrations, so of course the app is my favorite too. One of the features offered in this guide is the side-by-side comparisons for difficult to ID species. There is also a”lite” version which is free, which is a good way to see if you want to buy the full app.

— Audubon Birds ($14.99, often on sale); is a photographic guide, so if you are partial to photos vs. drawings, this may be for you. With the Audubon app you are able to submit checklists though the app to eBird and see what other birders have submitted.

— Peterson Birds of North America ($9.99, often on sale)

— National Geographic Birds of North America ($9.99); I don’t own this guide so I’m not very familiar with it. But from reading others’ reviews it seems to be a very good app and features 995 species and custom-created quizzes.

iBird (“lite” version is free, various full versions range in price); The iBird app is very user-friendly and great for new birders. iBird has guides for North America, and also Britain & Ireland.

BirdGuides (“lite” version is free, various full versions range in price); BirdGuides have UK field guide apps and also one Birds of Brasil app with over 1,800 species.

Apps for Learning Bird Song:

Larkwire ($2.99); a very user-friendly app which uses games to make learning bird songs fun. Larkwire groups together similar-sounding species and gives the listener a better chance to familiarize him/herself with the songs and calls of each species.

Bird Finding/Reporting Apps:

The BirdsEye app is for finding birds reported to eBird, and BirdsEye Log is for submitting your own sightings. They’re very good apps, and when I was in Ontario last summer working at Long Point, they worked very well for me. My only complaint is that the apps can’t find my location here in Alberta. I get a message saying “Low GPS Signal”. I don’t live in the complete middle of nowhere and we have good WiFi, so I’m a little disappointed that I can’t use these apps regularly at home.

BirdsEye (full versions range in price)

BirdEye Log ($9.99)

BirdsEye Hotspots ($4.99); BirdsEye Hotspots is another great app, which quickly finds eBird hotspots. Here is my review of the app. As a reminder, I received this app from Drew Weber at BirdsEye (who also writes at Nemesis Bird).

Birding eBooks:

Princeton University Press has recently made some of its most popular birding books available as eBooks on iTunes:

The Warbler Guide by Tom Stephenson & Scott Whittle ($18.99)

The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds by Richard Crossley ($19.99)

The World’s Rarest Birds by Erik Hirschfeld, Andy Swash and Robert Still ($27.99)

The Unfeathered Bird by Katrina van Grouw ($29.99)

Hawks at a Distance by Jerry Liguori ($12.99)

Birds of Peru by Thomas S. Schulenberg ($27.99)

Other Bird Apps:

Merlin Bird ID (free); the Merlin Bird ID app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is one of the newest birding apps on the market. Very good for beginning and intermediate birders.

Bird Codes (0.99); lists numerous bird banding codes

If I haven’t mentioned your favorite app, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to my list.

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Jessica at Princeton University Press has been very generous in providing me with eBook copies of The Unfeathered Bird and the very new Ten Thousand Birds to give away. To enter the contest, just leave a comment in this post with the name of which of the two ebooks you’d prefer.

For second entry, head over to my Facebook page and “Like” it. lease mention below in your comment that you’ve done so. After two random draws, I’ll announce the winners on February 22nd.

TheUnfeatheredBird TenThousandBirds