The Life of Birds
Watch The Life of Birds Season 1
The Limits of Endurance
aired: Wed, Dec 23, 1998
Birds are able to survive in some of the harshest and most bizarre places on the planet. In the Arabian Desert, crab plovers endure scorching temperatures, so they dig tunnels deep in the sand and lay eggs away from the sun. Lesser flamingos tolerate crippling heat as they stand in corrosive African soda lakes. At another extreme, a 10,000-strong nesting colony of oilbirds resides in a pitch-black cave in Venezuela.
The Problems of Parenthood
aired: Wed, Dec 16, 1998
Parents may have to keep their chicks warm or cool, fed and healthy for months before they fly the nest. The first meal a great-crested grebe chick gets isn't a fish, but a feather. Storks give their young cooling showers in the midday heat by spitting water over them. On village ponds throughout Britain, child abuse and even infanticide is being committed as coots turn on their young. When food is short, parents may resort to pecking their chicks on the head to sort out the weak from the strong.
The Demands of the Egg
aired: Wed, Dec 9, 1998
Birds employ an extraordinary variety of techniques to construct their nests and protect their eggs from predators. Because birds need to be light in order to fly, each egg must be laid as soon as it is produced and then kept both warm and protected. So the vast majority of birds make nests of some kind. Australian warblers use their beaks like a sewing machine to stitch leaves together, while apostle birds use them to trowel mud on their nests.
aired: Wed, Dec 2, 1998
Male birds use both extraordinary displays and bizarre rituals in order to turn a female’s head, but for many species it is girl power that rules the dating game. Curassows and guans have bizarre calls that sound just like dropping bombs and electric drills. On the Galapagos Islands, frigate birds pump up their vivid red throat pouches. While the tiny fairy wren of southern Australia is revealed as the most promiscuous bird in the world.
The Eloquent Communicators
aired: Wed, Nov 25, 1998
The myth that birds only sing for pleasure is destroyed as birdsongs become known as ways of communication .
Fishing for a Living
aired: Wed, Nov 18, 1998
Fresh and salt waters all over the world are rich in food and birds are the best fishers there are. Cameras follow birds from across the globe, including common mallards, revealing them as exquisite divers, and American dippers who prise small creatures from underneath rocks in Yellowstone National Park. Wherever there is water, there are birds, who have learned to get food there.
aired: Wed, Nov 11, 1998
From meat eating parrots in New Zealand to massive eagles that catch monkeys and flamingoes in Africa, dramatic footage shot around the world shows these birds hunting down their prey. To hunt, birds need super-senses and great skill. Some birds use exceptional hearing to track down their prey, while others use their supreme vision or a heightened sense of smell.
The Insatiable Appetite
aired: Wed, Nov 4, 1998
A beak made from horn, without any teeth, might seem a clumsy implement for gathering food. But birds have evolved an amazing range of bill shapes and sizes designed to hammer out grubs from trees, winkle out tiny seeds from fruits, and sip nectar from the deep recesses of flowers. If their bills and tongues can't reach what they're seeking, some of them even use tools to help them get a meal.
The Mastery of Flight
aired: Wed, Oct 28, 1998
Birds have adapted perfectly to the air space and honed the skills needed to fly. Though take-off is exhausting, and landing can be fraught with difficulties, birds are the masters of the air. They can fly with their wings back at speeds in excess of two hundred miles per hour, or remain in a completely stationary hover. But how do birds even manage to stay airborne?
To Fly or Not to Fly
aired: Wed, Oct 21, 1998
The series begins with an in-depth look at flightless birds around the world.
Life of Birds: Signals and Songs
aired: Mon, Apr 2, 2012
Birds have become expert communicators and use extraordinary patterns of color and beautiful songs to deter predators, intimidate rivals and even impress potential mates. In Patagonia, one of the world's largest woodpeckers taps out communications using its beak. While the lyrebird of southern Australia has its own comprehensive selection of musical notes, but it also steals sounds from its environment and incorporates them into its own repertoire.
Life of Birds: To Fly or Not to Fly?
aired: Mon, Apr 2, 2012
David Attenborough takes us back through time to show how birds evolved from the dinosaurs and took to the air. When the early mammals were still quite small, birds ruled the planet, with mighty vultures cruising the skies and huge, flightless 'terror-birds' stalking the land. The island of New Zealand was isolated for so long without mammals that it became a true paradise for birds.