By Michael Ferraro | March 23, 2006

Extinction has been a rabidly growing problem for thousands of species of animal for longer than one could care to remember. Since the industrial era, thousands of square miles of natural habitat have been wiped off the face of the Earth for good. It’s an ongoing reality that, unfortunately, isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

Shot on location in Bermuda and beautifully photographed, “Rare Bird” focuses on the re-emergence of a species that was thought extinct over three hundred years ago. This bird – the Cahow – was rediscovered in 1951, with the help of a fifteen year-old boy, David Wingate. The birds nest in various holes along the cliff side of a Bermuda island, making their location very difficult for investigators to discover. Also, the fact that they are nocturnal made their whereabouts even tougher to spot. They only fly at night so when residents saw them, they didn’t really think they were looking at anything special.

But they were. Since 1951, Wingate has made it his life’s mission to locate these birds. Nature, however, may have had some other plans for the Cahow. When Bermuda was first discovered over 400 years ago, the settlers hunted them for food, as did the rats aboard their ships and wild hogs. Then, upon their rediscovery as Wingate strives to build up their numbers, more disasters strike. Hurricanes, more rats and the poisons of pesticide ruin their chances.

The title of “Rare Bird” almost signifies two meanings. Obviously, it tells us about the bird’s status but moreover, it relates to David Wingate himself. His fortitude and tenacity to help these birds by any means necessary is a rare trait found in humans these days. Director Lucinda Spurling executes her love and interest in this story wonderfully by giving a rather complete history of both the bird and David’s life since age fifteen. Throughout the film, instead of showing the bird right off the bat, Spurling cuts to spectacular water color-style animations of various parts of the birds’ anatomy to aid in the anticipation of finally seeing the bird in flight. It’s a captivating, often awe-inspiring, nature documentary perfect for any animal lover.

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