When National Geographic published the first-ever self-triggered wildlife image in 1906, its board members were outraged—they couldn’t understand why the eminent adventure magazine would sensationalize itself by turning into "a picture gallery." But the readers were hooked right away, and over the last century, their enthusiasm has inspired Nat Geo to become a powerhouse source of wildlife imagery.
In today's image-driven world of media, Nat Geo continues to astound and delight. Lucky for us, many of those projects focus on birds—a 2012 story and photo montage on all 39 species of birds-of-paradise was the result of a several-year expedition by two ornithologists to more than 28 tropical locations. That same year Nat Geo teamed up with The Wild Bird Trust to launch a semi-weekly online photo series centered around threatened avians and conservation efforts from all over the world—the collection is now in its 76th edition.
Nat Geo also supports solo conservation crusades. About ten years ago, freelance photographer Joel Sartore began documenting every captive animal species around the world to highlight the modern extinction crisis. The project, known as Photo Ark, is partially funded by Nat Geo. More than 4,500 creatures have been photographed to date, including numerous birds, from oystercatchers and Sanderlings, to hornbills and Sunbitterns—all of the images can be found on the Nat Geo website. Some of Sartore’s other work can also been seen in the group's latest book.
The book, Rarely Seen: Photographs of the Extraordinary, holds 400 gorgeous pages of international marvels. And amidst the mammals and landscapes are plenty of delightful shots of birds. Scroll down to view some of our favorite scenes from the book.
Black Tie Affair
Sashimi to Go
Yin and Yang
Feathers on Fleek
Warmth in Numbers
Antarctica's Next Top Model
Rarely Seen Photographs of the Extraordinary, foreward by Stephen Alvarez, National Geographic Books, 400 pages, $22.11. Buy it on Amazon.