There are many definitions of the word rarity, and these two excellent books deal with very different aspects of this term: global rarity (conservation), and infrequent occurrences within a political entity (distribution and identification). Both books are beautifully laid out, and well edited.

The World’s Rarest Birds is a follow-up to the well-received Rare Birds Yearbook series from BirdLife International. That series highlighted the status of the rarest of the rare; the 2008 volume (E. Hirschfield, 2007, Rare Birds Yearbook, MagDig Media Limited, Shropshire, England) focused on the 189 species ranked as Critically Endangered. The project paused after the 2009 volume was published, and was re-conceived as The World’s Rarest Birds in order to publish a larger format book as an update on the 650 rarest species, showcasing new photographs of many of these species.

The volume begins with a series of...

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