A Very Rare Bird

Birdwatchers are one of my favorite species of people to watch.

They are curious, motivated by any flash of feathers that passes by their hawkish view. They like to tick lists and they like to count and compare.

When people ask me if I’m a birdwatcher, I tell them I like to watch birds–any birds. I’ll watch a pigeon or a penguin for hours. In this regard, my love for birds is more voyeuristic than scholastic.

But I also love birds because I travel. Travel and birds go very well together, because along with landscapes, languages, food and flags, native birds are the only way to really tell where you are in the world. Birds are somewhat geospatially unique–and some of them are very unique.

Atlantisia rogersi has wings but it cannot fly, which is unfortunate since it lives on this farflung island with very high cliffs. Luckily he is a good climber and hops well.

I was exceedingly lucky in that I was able to meet the Inaccessible Island Rail while on Inaccessible Island (watch the video here). The professionals say that there are about 8,400 mature individuals alive and well on Inaccessible Island. That sounds like a lot of birds–maybe not so rare–but what makes them so rare is that they only live on Inaccessible Island, nowhere else in the world. Imagine if the robin or cardinals in your backyard could only live in your backyard and nowhere else.

Traveling with birdwatchers was fun because I got to watch them hunt high and low on Inaccessible Island, looking for the Inaccessible Island Rail. They never found one, and so a friendly islander from Tristan Da Cunha plucked one out of the bushes and showed him to me. I was happy to meet this bird. He was very cute and energetic and did not like being held for this picture, just like most kids. But I was so impressed by his little lovely head and long shiny black beak–a species that is most certainly and extraordinarily unique.

So I saw one of the rarest birds on earth. And now I will sit back and watch the birdwatchers turn green with jealousy.


  1. A Very Rare Bird - tDiscuss
    March 29, 2012, 9:45 am

    […] It has wings but cannot fly, which is unfortunate since it lives on this island with high cliffs. Sponsored by Gillette http://digitalnomad.nationalgeographic.com/… […]

  2. Sharayah Pranger
    Pacific Northwest
    March 29, 2012, 1:30 pm

    I am just like you- I like to watch birds because they are beautiful and amazing and fun to watch- I am typically not very “Type A” in personality. But I CAN tell you that the most frequent visitors to my back porch are house finches and black-capped chickadees, that they are greedy as sin and extremely unwilling to share food, and that I have been known, to them mystification of anyone else who happens to be in the room, to scream excitedly and drop everything I am doing to run to the back window when even the plainest of fat little brown birds lands on my porch.

    So naturally I am all kinds of jealous of your amazing experience!

  3. Anonymous
    March 29, 2012, 4:21 pm

    “Travel and birds go very well together, because along with landscapes, languages, food and flags, native birds are the only way to really tell where you are in the world.”

    What is the purpose of this sentence?

  4. Jealous! I Am Jealous!
    March 29, 2012, 5:38 pm

    […] want to see, Atlantisia rogersii, otherwise known as the Inaccessible Island Rail.Andrew Evans, writing on his blog, Digital Nomad, has told the tale of his encounter with that very bird. Darn that Andrew Evans – I never got an invitation! • Camping tents – Check out our pop […]

  5. Monica
    March 30, 2012, 1:09 pm

    Nature, be it flora or fauna is such a delight to experience. Andrew, you have given me a good look at many new, (to me) and lovely things. I thank you for that. 🙂 Traveling mercies. Thanks for the journey!

  6. […] Spotted some very rare birds. […]

  7. […] Rare things are found in rare places, and as a wanderer who has dedicated himself to reaching the rarest places on Earth, I have happened upon a few rare things. For example, I once spotted a mutant all-black penguin near Antarctica, in Kyushu I came upon an exquisite 12th-century celadon bowl from the Song Dynasty, and this past spring, I met one of the rarest birds on Earth. […]

  8. […] adventure. I loved being able to stop off at the remotest corners of the globe, places like Inaccessible Island and Tristan da […]

  9. kayce jones
    Gaston ,Sc
    May 11, 2015, 1:06 pm

    it is ok from what i have watched and what is the birds name

  10. Henrietta
    April 13, 2017, 11:41 am

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