BIRDS OF THE WORLD
 
 
a web page by Don Roberson
 
 
#
Species [range]
Photo/art [see credits];
all photos taken in the wild
Summary of reasons for this choice
DR seen?
11
any Tragopan
Tragopan sp.
[w. Himalayas to se. China]
In my initial picks 35 years ago, all five Tragopans made my "top 50." Now I go with this single pick, as any tragopan is a spectacular, elusive prize in montane forests of c. Asia. Western T. melanocephalus (shown) may be rarest & most isolated (in n. Pakistan & Afghanistan); Blyth's T. blythii and Cabot's T. caboti are Chinese endemics or near-endemics, while Temminck's T. temminckii and Satyr T. satyra may be the most colorful. Any one would make me happy.
No;
0 of 5
12
Long-tailed Ground-Roller
Uratelornis chimaera
[sw. Madagascar]
Of all the great birds in Madagascar, this is the one that captured my imagination 25 years ago. It is the strangest of this Malagasy endemic family: a unique mix of a roadrunner, pitta & roller. It is the headline species of the unworldly spiny desert. It is still rare and can be elusive; see a "Ground-Roller" page for more details.
Yes
13
Kakapo
Strigops habroptilus
[New Zealand]
It is very difficult to see the world's only flightless parrot. All remaining individuals were captured from 1980–1992 from two isolated & declining populations and taken to 4 well-guarded offshore islets in hopes that semi-natural breeding would save the species from extinction. The plan is working but only researchers, and volunteers who get on a list that will require them to work during a 2–week stay at some random future time, actually see this huge booming parrot.
No
14
Emperor Penguin
Aptenodytes forsteri
[Antarctica]
This is the world's largest penguin. As it breeds in the Antarctic winter well inland on that foreboding continent, and far from touristy spots in the ice & snow, few observers see adult birds. Younger Emperors wander more and are seen on some Antarctic cruises. It still has a reasonably healthy population but its huge size and unique life history warrant it a spot well up the list of the earth's great birds.
No
15
Shoebill
Balaeniceps rex
[e. & c. Africa]
A rare and rather shy specialist that feeds on lungfish in vast papyrus swamps, it is still usually considered as a monotypic family although recent evidence suggests it is a relative of pelicans. For years there was no reasonable place to visit in hopes of seeing one, but the recent re-opening of Uganda to tourists now provides good opportunities. I saw it at Murchison Falls NP in 2002, but there is habitat very close to Kampala as well.
Yes
16
Short-tailed Albatross
Phoebastria albatrus
[n. Pacific Ocean]
Almost entirely wiped out by shooting, egging, and volcanic eruptions on Tori-shima I., its primary breeding grounds off Japan, today it is making a slow comeback. Nearly extinct by the end of WWII, perhaps 1200 of this huge albatross now exist, and youngsters now range the entire north Pacific. Other albatross are now rarer (e.g., Chatham Albatross Thalassarche eremita) but they closely resemble more common species; Short-tailed is unique in many ways.
Yes
17
Wallace's Standardwing
Semioptera wallacii
[Halmahera I., Indonesia]
Named for the pioneering naturalist and co-author of the theory of evolution Alfred Russell Wallace, this unusual bird-of-paradise is restricted to lowland forests on Halmahera and Bacan, northern Moluccas. Males display in lekking trees that are visited by females, but only males with the best display sites succeed in mating. It is such a strange bird, with such weird "standards" extending from the wings, that it defies description. Incredible videos appear on the BBC series Attenborough in Paradise.
Yes
18
Blue Bird-of-Paradise
Paradisaea rudolphi
[Papua New Guinea]
Among the gorgeous canopy dwelling birds of paradise, few are so lovely and in so much danger as this species. It is limited to a few fragmented patches of lower montane forest in a single country. It has an incredible inverted display that males perform hanging upside down, and the glowing blue feathers are unworldly. There are other great BOPs in this and other genera, but surely this is among the best.
Yes
19
any Cassowary
Casuarius sp.
[Australasia]
An observer can spend weeks in forests inhabited by cassowaries but never see one. These powerful but flightless birds are exceptionally elusive. A sighting of any of the 3 species is a major highlight: Southern C. casuarius [ne. Australia, s. New Guinea], Northern C. unappendiculatus [w. New Guinea] or Dwarf C. bennetti [foothills of e. New Guinea]. For more, see my "Cassowary' page.
Yes;
2 of 3
20
any Kiwi
Apteryx sp.
[New Zealand]
It is absolutely wonderful to see any of the 5 species of kiwi. Brown Kiwi is now split into three — North Island Brown Apteryx mantelli, Okarito Brown A. rowi, and Southern Brown A. australis — but everywhere a kiwi is elusive and mostly declining. Little Spotted A. owenii & Great Spotted A. haastii have limited ranges. These are nocturnal enigmas that probe for earthworms; females lay unbelievably large eggs for their body size. Totally unique, they behave like mammals in many ways.
Yes;
1 of 5

CREDITS:
All artworks are copyrighted by the artist (as detailed below) and are either used with permission or are posted here in reliance on the non-commercial "fair use" doctrine; all rights are reserved by the artist

  • J. C. Harrison painted the Western Tragopan; from Pheasants of the World (1951) by Jean Delacour (Country Life)
  • Derek Onley painted the Kakapo; from Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand (1996) by Heather & Robertson (Viking)
  • Arthur Singer painted the Blue Bird of Paradise; from Birds of the World (1961) by Austin & Singer (Golden Press)
  • William T. Cooper painted the Wallace's Standardwing; from Birds of Paradise & Bower Birds (1977) by Cooper & Forshaw (Collins)

All photographs are copyrighted by the photographer (as detailed below) and are used with permission; all rights are reserved to the photographer

  • Greg W. Lasley photographed the Emperor Penguin (Antarctica)
  • Don Roberson photographed the Long-tailed Ground-Roller (Madagascar), Short-tailed Albatross (Calif., U.S.A.), Southern Cassowary (Australia), North Island Brown Kiwi (North Island, New Zealand), and Shoebill (Uganda)

 


or the picks via links at right:
 
 

TO BIRD FAMILIES OF THE WORLD

TO HOME PAGE

 
  TOP  
  page initially created 7-10 May 2002, revised 7 June 2002, 5 Nov 2003 & 28 Nov 2005, 21 Feb 2010, and 6 Dec 2014  
 
all text & photos © Don Roberson, except as otherwise indicated; all rights reserved