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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.
  • All Flyers Are Birds: Delightfully averted.
  • 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.
  • Badass Adorable: The baby ancient murrelets from episode five.
  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • Large Ham: Quite a few of the birds seem to be this.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: The red phalarope is the bird equivalent of this.
  • 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.
  • Polly Wants a Microphone: Mimicry in birds is brought up in episode six.
  • Ptero Soarer: Mostly due to Science Marches On, but the pterosaurs that appear in episode 1 are still fairly lacking, as they're depicted as skinny, delicate creatures that are doomed the minute they're grounded. In life, pterosaurs were probably very muscular, sturdy creatures that were also capable walkers, runners and swimmers. It seems that Attenborough has done his homework between docs, as his later works on pterosaurs are far more up to date.
  • Slurpasaur: The Haast's eagle in the first episode is live-acted by a Harris's hawk.
  • Stock Dinosaurs: Naturally, Archaeopteryx gets an appearance in the first episode. Rhamphorhynchus, a generic sauropod, a moa, and Diatryma/Gastornis also make appearances in the same episode. The Haast's eagle made its first documentary appearance in this series.