A picture of an endangered Asian crested ibis soaring over China is a first-prize winner in the first annual World's Rarest Birds international photo competition, organizers announced in January.
Launched in 2010, the competition ranked pictures of birds that fall into three categories determined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature: endangered or data deficient, critically endangered or extinct in the wild, and critically endangered migratory species.
The above shot took top honors in the "endangered or data deficient" category. The Asian crested ibis once thrived in Russia, Japan, and China, but its population has shrunk to about 250 in China's Shaanxi Province. Agricultural activities have probably affected the bird by reducing available feeding grounds, according to the World's Rarest Birds website.
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A panel of five independent judges—including two wildlife photographers, a wildlife artist, a citizen interested in birds, and a book editor—rated the entries on image quality, subject rarity, and aesthetics. Winning images will be featured in the book The World’s Rarest Birds, to be published in 2012 by WILDGuides.
The book's "key message is poignant—a large proportion of the world's birds, including every one depicted, is threatened with extinction," Andy Swash, managing director of WILDGuides, said in a statement.