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Galapagos: Forces of Change

   2006    Nature
Animals and plants in the Galapagos have evolved the most surprising ways to cope with the profound geological and climatic forces.
Series: Galapagos

Insect Hunters

   2002    Nature
Mammals from tiny shrews, giant anteaters, armoured armadillo to bats have specialised in eating insects. Some have evolved into complex and effective hunters, even pursued their prey into the skies
Series: The Life of Mammals

Sahara

   2012    Nature
Northern Africa is home to the greatest desert on Earth, the Sahara. On the fringes, huge zebras battle over dwindling resources and naked mole rats avoid the heat by living a bizarre underground existence. Within the desert, where the sand dunes 'sing', camels seek out water with the help of their herders and tiny swallows navigate across thousands of square miles to find a solitary oasis. This is a story of an apocalypse and how, when nature is overrun, some are forced to flee, some endure, but a few seize the opportunity to establish a new order.
Series: Africa with David Attenborough

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

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
Out of the Cradle
Out of the Cradle

   2019    History
Reel Rock
Reel Rock

   2014    Culture
The Truth About
The Truth About

   2018    Medicine
The Human Body
The Human Body

   1998    Medicine
A Perfect Planet
A Perfect Planet

   2021    Nature
The Last Dance
The Last Dance

   2020    Culture
The Green Planet
The Green Planet

   2022    Nature