Books  General Natural History  Biography, Exploration & Travel 

The Search for the Rarest Bird in the World

Biography / Memoir
Part detective trail, part love affair and pure story telling at its best.

By: Vernon RL Head (Author)

244 pages, no illustrations

Signal Books Ltd

Hardback | Oct 2015 | #227009 | ISBN-13: 9781909930315
Availability: Usually dispatched within 4 days Details
NHBS Price: £14.99 $19/€18 approx
Hardback | Dec 2014 | #214838 | ISBN-13: 9781431410927
Availability: Usually dispatched within 2-3 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £29.99 $38/€35 approx

About this book

In 1990 an expedition of Cambridge scientists arrived at the Plains of Nechisar, tucked between the hills of the Great Rift Valley in the Gamo Gofa province in the country of Ethiopia. On that expedition they found three hundred and fifteen species of birds; sixty one species of mammal and sixty nine species of butterfly were identified; twenty species of dragonflies and damselflies; seventeen reptile species were recorded; three frog species were filed; plants were listed. And the wing of a road-killed bird was packed into a brown paper bag.

It was to become the most famous wing in the world.

When the specimens finally arrived at the British Natural History Museum in Tring it set the world of science aflutter. It seemed that the wing was unique, but they questioned, can you name a species for the first time based only on the description of a wing, based on just one wing?

After much to and fro confirmation was unanimous, and the new species was announced, Nechisar Nightjar, Caprimulgus solala, (solus:only and ala:wing).

And birdwatchers like Vernon began to dream.

Twenty-two years later an expedition of four led by Ian Sinclair set off to try to find this rarest bird in the world. Vernon R.L. Head captivates and enchants as he tells of the adventures of Ian, Dennis, Gerry and himself as they navigate the wilderness of the plains, searching by spotlight for the elusive Nechisar Nightjar.

But The Search for the Rarest Bird in the World is more than a boy's own adventure in search of the rarest bird in the world. It is a meditation on nature, on ways of seeing, on the naming of things and why we feel so compelled to label. It is a story of friendships and camaraderie. But most of all it embraces and enfolds one into the curious and eye-opening world of the birdwatcher. For birdwatchers, twitchers, bird lovers, and about-to-become birdwatchers everywhere. For those who enjoy the natural world, the outdoors, the untamed places. Reminiscent of Nathaniel's Nutmeg and Longitude, this true story of incredible adventure will bring out the explorer in everyone who reads it.

"[...] The Rarest Bird in the World tells of a bird that was discovered in a most improbable manner and the quest to see it living for the first time. It’s an amazing story, one worth reading. But it would have been more enjoyable had the author exercised a little more restraint on the flowery language."
– Grant McCreary (27-04-2016), read the full review at The Birder's Library

"[...] I picked this book up to look at, out of curiosity – and couldn’t put it down. It is a most interesting and well-written account, which I would definitely recommend."
– Dorian Moss, BTO book reviews


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Biography

Vernon R.L. Head was born in Cape Town (South Africa) in 1967. He grew up in a bungalow near the sea. He studied architecture, winning national and international awards for design and creative thinking. He is presently Chairman of BirdLife South Africa, one of Africa's biggest and most influential conservation organisations. When not working on environmental matters, he is either designing special buildings, or traveling the world looking for the rarest birds. This is his first book.

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