A Most Remarkable Creature bookcover

a most remarkable creature

The Hidden Life and Epic Journey of the World’s smartest birds of prey

“Caracaras are not like other birds, or even other birds of prey. Curious, wide-ranging, gregarious, and intelligent, the ten species of caracara are a scientific puzzle that has intrigued biologists since the days of Darwin. And this book — as curious, wide-ranging, gregarious, and intelligent as its subject — is not like any other book that I have encountered.”

Charles C. Mann, author of 1491

In 1833, a young Charles Darwin was astonished by a strange animal he met in the Falkland Islands: a handsome, social, and oddly crow-like falcon that was “tame and inquisitive,” “quarrelsome and passionate,” and so insatiably curious that it stole hats, compasses, and other valuables from the crew of the Beagle. Darwin met many unusual creatures in his five-year voyage, but no others showed an interest in studying him—and he wondered why these birds were confined to islands at the tip of South America, sensing a larger story. But he set this mystery aside, and never returned to it.

Almost two hundred years later, Meiburg picks up where Darwin left off. These rare and unusual birds—now called striated caracaras—still exist, and A Most Remarkable Creature reveals the wild and fascinating story of their history, origins, and possible futures in a series of travels throughout South America, from the fog-bound coasts of Tierra del Fuego to the tropical forests of Guyana. Along the way, Meiburg draws us into the life and work of W.H. Hudson, a Victorian writer and naturalist who championed caracaras as unsung wonders of the natural world, and takes us to falconry parks in England, where captive caracaras perform incredible feats of memory, problem-solving, and friendship. A Most Remarkable Creature is much more than a book about birds: it’s a quest for moments of first contact between humans and animals, science and religion, and the mismatched continents Europeans mistakenly called the New World.

Praise for A Most Remarkable Creature

“I’m in love with this book. If you like great writing, strange historical twists, adventure, nature, music and/or birds, this will quickly become one of your all-time favorite books.”
Laurie Anderson, artist and musician

“Meiburg elevates himself to the top ranks of science writers with this enthralling debut.”
— Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“Wholly captivating natural history…Meiburg’s enthusiasm matches Darwin’s, and readers will share it.”
— Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

“Utterly captivating and beautifully written, this book is a hugely entertaining and enlightening exploration of a bird so wickedly smart, curious, and social, it boggles the mind. Along the way, Meiburg takes us from the Falklands to the UK, from Guyana to the Antarctic and Florida, and from deep time to the present and back again, describing in brilliant language why these birds–and their planet–are the way they are. If you love birds, natural history, science, travel, adventure, or just great writing, you will be rapt.”
Jennifer Ackerman, author of The Genius of Birds and The Bird Way

“A fascinating, entertaining, and totally engrossing story of these under-appreciated birds, deftly intertwining natural history and human history, and with insights and lessons that go far beyond the subject birds.”
David Sibley, author of What It’s Like to Be a Bird

A Most Remarkable Creature does what only the very best science and nature writing can. Jonathan Meiburg reminds us that our world is not fully known, that the prehistoric walk among us, and, most of all, how exciting and unnerving it feels to encounter an animal you’ve never seen before, and, even more, to find that animal staring right back.”
Steven Rinella, author of American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon

“This book is an evolutionary labyrinth, taking Meiburg to the end of the world following a single, curious predator. Vivid, beautiful, and scientifically rich, crawling with jungle ants, blasted by Antarctic winds, his tales will transport you from the page to wilder places.”
Craig Childs, author of Atlas of a Lost World

“A rich, sprawling romp through time and far-flung, fabulous spaces, in pursuit of one of Earth’s most enigmatic, engaging, and shrewdest creatures.”
Alan Weisman, author of The World Without Us and Countdown