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Conquest of the Skies The first to flight

   2015    Nature
David Attenborough embarks on an extraordinary journey to unravel one of nature s most gripping stories the evolution of flying animals. The power of flight is one of the greatest miracles of nature. Over one hundred billion creatures soar through the air today - from nectar-drinking hummingbirds, to armoured airborne beetles; from bats hunting in the black of night, to bizarre winged lizards. The film travels back in time to unravel the astonishing 300-million-year story of how these animals first appeared, and then evolved into the huge variety of aeronauts that fill our skies today. Only now, using the latest scientific analysis, can he reveal the hidden mechanics behind their gravity-defying skills. Ground-breaking 3D cameras, high speed filming and stunning CGI bring the viewer closer than ever to this astounding aerial world.
Series: Conquest of the Skies

Life: Birds

   2009    Nature
Birds owe their global success to feathers - something no other animal has. They allow birds to do extraordinary things. For the first time, a slow-motion camera captures the unique flight of the marvellous spatuletail hummingbird as he flashes long, iridescent tail feathers in the gloomy undergrowth. Aerial photography takes us into the sky with an Ethiopian lammergeier dropping bones to smash them into edible-sized bits. Thousands of pink flamingoes promenade in one of nature's greatest spectacles. The sage grouse rubs his feathers against his chest in a comic display to make popping noises that attract females. The Vogelkop bowerbird makes up for his dull colour by building an intricate structure and decorating it with colourful beetles and snails.
Series: Life

The Mastery of Flight

   1998    Nature
The second programme deals with the mechanics of flight. Getting into the air is by far the most exhausting of a bird's activities, and Sir Attenborough observes shearwaters in Japan that have taken to climbing trees to give them a good jumping-off point. The albatross is so large that it can only launch itself after a run-up to create a flow of air over its wings. A combination of aerodynamics and upward air currents (or thermals), together with the act of flapping or gliding is what keeps a bird aloft. Landing requires less energy but a greater degree of skill, particularly for a big bird, such as a swan. Weight is kept to a minimum by having a beak made of keratin instead of bone, a light frame, and a coat of feathers, which is maintained fastidiously. The peregrine falcon holds the record for being fastest in the air, diving at speeds of over 300 km/h. Conversely, the barn owl owes its predatory success to flying slowly, while the kestrel spots its quarry by hovering. However, the true specialists in this regard are the hummingbirds, whose wings beat at the rate of 25 times a second. The habits of migratory birds are explored. After stocking up with food during the brief summer of the north, such species will set off on huge journeys southwards. Some, such as snow geese, travel continuously, using both the stars and the sun for navigation. They are contrasted with hawks and vultures, which glide overland on warm air, and therefore have to stop overnight.
Series: The Life of Birds

Triumph

   2015    Science
David Attenborough concludes his epic history of the evolution of flight with an exploration of the highly advanced fliers that dominate our skies today – the extraordinarily diverse skills of the birds, and the sonar-guided precision of the bats. He encounters some of our planet’s most remarkable fliers – from peregrine falcons dive-bombing starlings over Rome, to hummingbirds hovering in the cloud forests of Ecuador. In a spectacular finale, he visits Gomantong cave in Borneo to witness the mass exodus of a million bats.
Series: Conquest of the Skies

Seeing in Colour

   2021    Nature
The natural world is full of colours. For us, they are a source of beauty, but for animals they are a tool for survival. David Attenborough reveals the extraordinary ways in which animals use colour: to win a mate, to fight off rivals and to warn enemies. New camera technologies - some developed especially for this series – also allow us to see colours and patterns usually invisible to human eyes.
Ultraviolet cameras reveal bright signals on a butterfly’s wings and facial markings on yellow damselfish that are used as secret communication channels. Some animals can also detect polarized light, and specialist cameras can now show us how fiddler crabs see the world, and how mantis shrimp have strange polarization patterns on their bodies to signal to a mate or rival.
Series: Attenborough Life in Colour

The Insatiable Appetite

   1998    Nature
The next instalment focuses on dietary needs and how different species have evolved beaks to suit their individual requirements. The latter come in a multitude of forms. Blue tits and goldfinches have beaks akin to tweezers, with which to extract seeds, while the hawfinch's razor-like bill can deal with a cherry-stone. However, the crossbill is the only finch that can twist its mandibles in opposite directions. Jays store acorns for winter by burying them in the ground, whereas woodpeckers can keep up to 60,000 of them in one tree trunk. Sap is also desirable, and there are a variety of methods used to obtain it. The hoatzin is the only specialised leaf-eater, and accordingly has a digestive system more akin to that of cattle. Plants recruit birds to aid pollination, and offer nectar as a reward. Hummingbirds eat little else, and the sword-bill's beak is the longest of any bird in relation to its body. Insects are also highly prized, and Galapagos finches are shown to possess some ingenuity as they not only strip bark, but also use 'tools' to reach their prey. Crows are hailed as being among the most intelligent birds, and one is shown using a twig to spear a grub within a fallen log. The robin is an opportunist, and Sir Attenborough observes one seizing morsels as he digs a patch of earth. In South America, a cattle tyrant sits atop an obliging capybara and uses its vantage point to spot passing food that may be dislodged by its grazing partner.
Series: The Life of Birds
Life in the Undergrowth

Life in the Undergrowth

2005  Nature
Cosmos: Possible Worlds

Cosmos: Possible Worlds

2020  Science
Life

Life

2009  Nature
History of the Eagles

History of the Eagles

2013  History
Planet Earth

Planet Earth

2007  Nature
Senna

Senna

2010  Culture
First Life

First Life

2010  Science