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Series / The Life of Birds

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The Life of Birds is a series of documentaries written and presented by David Attenborough in the late nineties.

The series is about...well, the lives that birds lead, and delves delightfully into these lives, showcasing everything from their mastery of the skies to the lengths they'll go to get a meal.

The series consists of ten episodes:

  1. To Fly or Not To Fly?: Introduces us to the birds, describes their evolution from reptiles and asks the question of why some birds give up flight.
  2. Mastery of Flight: Picks up almost directly from the previous episode, displays how birds rose to become the masters of the sky.
  3. The Insatiable Appetite: Displays the dietary habits of terrestrial birds.
  4. Meat Eaters: Focuses on carnivorous birds.
  5. Fishing for a Living: Focuses on aquatic and fish-eating birds.
  6. Signals and Songs: Describes the unique vocal and visual range of birds and how they communicate.
  7. Finding Partners: Shows the mating habits of birds.
  8. The Demands of the Egg: The lengths birds will go to defend and care for their eggs is examined.
  9. The Problems of Parenthood: How birds raise their young is examined.
  10. The Limits of Endurance: The final installment that discusses the threats that birds face in recent years and how humans can help save them.


  • Acrophobic Bird: Episode one deals with not only flying birds, but also ones that can't fly.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Birds are apparently even more of this in their own eyes than they are to ours, due to the spectrum of colors they can see.
  • Artistic License Paleontology:
    • David refers to Diatryma/Gastornis as a "terror bird". While this was before the species was discovered to be herbivorous, it was known even back then that it was not related to the true terror birds.
    • In the same episode, he implies that Argentavis lived 50 million years ago. That's at least 45 million years off.
  • Badass Adorable: The baby ancient murrelets from episode five, who rush out of the forests and join their parents in the sea before they're even an hour old, stopping for absolutely nothing as they go.
  • Cool Old Guy: David Attenborough, as per usual.
  • Feathered Fiend: The Haast's eagle and Gastornis in episode one, the birds of prey in episode four, the shoebill stork in episode five and the capercaillie in episode seven.
  • Flight: The most famous ability of birds that is discussed in detail in the first two episodes.
  • Friend to All Living Things: David as per usual.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Many of the birds are shown to be fairly aggressive, especially the courting capercaillie, who attacks anything he views as a threat to its territory.
  • Large Ham: Quite a few of the birds seem to be this, especially the courting males in "Finding Partners". Justified as when your chances of finding a mate are determined by being noticed, then being loud and flamboyant is the way to go.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: The red phalarope is the bird equivalent of this; the females are brightly colored and go courting, the males are drab colored and tend the nests.
  • Never Say "Die": A very odd example, considering the fact that the series usually averts this—Problems of Parenthood features a sequence where a coot parent kills one of its own chicks in order to ensure the survival of the others. David refers to this as the baby "being punished" and later states that it eventually "stops begging"...when it's very obviously dead.
  • Noisy Nature: Especially in episode six, which focuses on bird calls and songs.
  • Polly Wants a Microphone: Mimicry in birds is brought up in episode six.
  • Slurpasaur: The Haast's eagle in the first episode is live-acted by a Harris's hawk. An Andean condor is also briefly used to depict an Argentavis.