"My wife and I bought The Life of Birds from Amazon without seeing a minute of it. We had seen The Life of Mammals and Blue Planet enough times that we both felt confident that we knew what we were getting. We were right. The only reason I gave it four stars instead of five is that I can't quite say it was as good as Blue Planet, which blew me away.Based on our previous experience with The Life of Mammals and Blue Planet, what were we expecting, you might ask? Well, first of all, we knew we'd be getting an outstanding nature documentary series featuring a dizzying variety of animals. We were also expecting informative, yet not overly intrusive narration from David Attenborough. Last, we were expecting a series that our 2-year-old would be riveted to and want to watch over and over again, which is what happened with the first two series. As I said earlier, that's what we expected and that's what we got.Don't get me wrong: I enjoyed Winged Migration. But as far as documentaries go, it really is a different bird (if you will). The Life of Birds is engaging in a way that Winged Migration is not - it strives to teach, not to create art. The footage may not inspire quite so many "How did they get that shot?" moments as Winged Migration, but there are plenty of scenes that make you wonder. Add to that the fact that there are so many bird species from all manner of habitat in this series that you'll lose count after the first installment.The 3-disc set consists of 10 episodes:TO FLY OR NOT TO FLY: Features computer animated sequences on the origins of flight and how birds evolved from pterasaurs - very similar to that in Walking With Dinosaurs. Also great footage of birds hunting insects, including a bee eaters, kiwis, and a hornbill.THE MASTERY OF FLIGHT: An in-depth look at the anatomy of flight featuring albatrosses, pelicans, hummingbirds, snow geese and various birds of prey. There's a great scene where an osprey nabs a trout, picks it up and turns it head first in mid-flight to reduce drag.THE INSATIABLE APPETITE: Deals with the constant search for food, largely as a result of flying being so energy-intensive. Features woodpeckers, sap suckers, geese, lorikeets, hornbills, crows, robins and macaws.MEAT EATERS: Deals almost exclusively with birds of prey, such as owls, eagles, kestrels, shrikes, and hawks, as well as a few that you wouldn't expect (vultures and flamingos). Amazing flight footage in this episode, and very much feels the same as those documentaries of lions eating zebras in Africa.FISHING FOR A LIVING: Pretty self-explanatory title, featuring dippers, ducks, skimmers, kingfishers, gulls, cormorants, herons, cranes, albatrosses and assorted shore birds.SIGNALS AND SONGS: A detailed analysis of the reasons and ways that birds communicate. Features robins, blackbirds, finches, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, bell birds, toucans and a whole bunch of birds whose names I'd be sure to misspell if I tried.FINDING PARTNERS: You can't talk about mating birds without talking about peacocks, right? Well, they did. However, there are grebes, Jamaican streamer-tailed hummingbirds, red-headed weavers, an odd-looking pheasant, a Scottish grouse, the calf bird (which moos to attract a mate) and hedge sparrows.THE DEMANDS OF THE EGG: Looks at the hassles birds go through to protect their eggs, including a close look at nesting. Features terns, dippers, frigate birds, warblers, weaver birds, red-breasted toucan, cuckoos, and imperial pigeons.THE PROBLEMS OF PARENTHOOD: Deals with the non-stop effort of feeding some demanding kids that bird parents seem to go through. The young bird footage is great. Features Australian Rosella parrots, coots, cuckoos, Andean torrent ducks, red geese, Arabian babblers, and open billed storks.THE LIMITS OF ENDURANCE: Examines birds living in hostile environments, and co-existing with people. Also handles conservation efforts, as well as a brief recap of birds that have gone extinct in the last hundred years or so. Features penguins, sand grouse, crab plovers, Arctic gulls, vultures, crows in Japan (some amazing urban footage here), purple martens, and a host of endangered birds."
A Masterpiece among Documentaries
Minh Doan | Boisbriand, Quebec, Canada | 01/03/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'll start with these words: I was not a bird watcher. I was not into bird watching at all. My hobbies mainly involved computers. I graduated in Computer Engineering.So why my 5-star rating on this piece of work? Well, it is simply the most enjoyable long running documentary I have ever seen.Every scene in this set has been filmed as if each frame was a work of art. Seemingly impossible close-ups of birds in flight, as well as incredible film shots of different species of birds in their natural habitat, have been taken throughout the series. Also, remarkable computer animations were used to render some prehistoric aerial creatures, as well as to enhance some explanation about the bird's vocal chords and bone structures. One would wonder if such attention to photography would warrant a "Making of..." film.But not only is the scenery stunning, Sir David Attenborough has a flair of teaching us the world of birds in ways that would grasp the attention of any viewer. He does not go into complex, arcane description of each bird, but takes the time to introduce us to each species in a very friendly way. No complex Latin description. No dry description of the birds' characteristics. Sir David Attenborough draws us in with his genuine fascination of each species. He doesn't rely much on some birds' cuteness to get our attention. He lures us with pure human curiosity.A sparkle of humour here, a tiny amount of suspense there, and an engaging soundtrack all add to the narration, creating a documentary that should be known for its superb structure in teaching us the birds' way of living.NOTE for DVD users: At the time of writing this review, there is currently a DVD version available through the BBS website. There are 3 DVD discs included, containing all 10 episodes. Unfortunately, it seems to be restricted to the European market, since the prices are marked in pounds. As you all know, DVD players can only play DVDs with the appropriate regional code, so it is unlikely that American DVD players can play imported European DVDs. There is currently no plan to export the series into an American encoded DVD set."
If you could only buy one Nature DVD...
elcectus | Santa Monica, CA United States | 09/23/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It would take something spectacular for me to watch a DVD for 10 hours straight... and this is. I laughed, I cried, I held my breath as 2 fighting hawks grasped talons in midair and spiraled down... would they realize that the ground was fast approaching? (Buy it and find out!) Think of this series as an amalgamation of fascinating facts about different species' behavior as it relates to their commonalities, such as nesting. Although no species is explored in depth, the vignettes are satisfying. (Although, I do want to know what happens to eggs that get buried completely and abandoned by their parents!) David Attenborough is his usual quirky self, appearing a few feet away from his subjects, and sometimes interacting with them. His confrontation with a territorial Scottish grouse is priceless. The birds themselves, aided by spectacular photography, are truly wonders. The shots of Lady Gould Finch and Zebra Finch nestlings' mouths were astonishing, and I doubt that people who raise them as pets have seen this. There's not too much nasty stuff here, although I know more now than I want to about coot parents and brown pelican siblings, and what we humans do to Diksissels in South America is heartbreaking. Kiwis to Kakapos, plovers to peacocks, they're all here. If you are a bird lover, you will see a few familiar scenes (the million flamingos in the lake, the male emperor penguins incubating eggs on their feet), so you find yourself watching for favorites... will they show the amazing artistry of the Bowerbird? Willwe see the Palm Cockatoo beating a log with a stick to declare his territory? I expected to see California Condors as the final bit (the subject is conservation) but instead got a delightful scene with a human caretaker flying his ultralight plane with his flock of Whoopers and Sandhill Cranes. Give yourself (and your loved ones) a treat and buy this DVD!"
Watch the DVD, and then get the book...
elcectus | 11/15/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first watched this incredible documentary on PBS, video recorder running every single time. Eventually I decided to get the book that accompanies the series. What an understatement!--the book is a definite stand-alone for those of you who prefer to read. So here is what I recommend to anybody who is even remotely interested in nature documentaries: Buy and watch the DVD, and then, if you're as hooked as I was, do yourself a favor and buy the book. Sir David Attenborough's voice literally jumps off the pages with every single word, which makes for a very entertaining read. But I found that there was a lot of information that I had missed when I watched the series. Upon reading the book, I was amazed at how much I had learned without even realizing it. Little tidbits such as: what purpose do egg shapes serve, how does a mother bird know which squawker to feed next, etc., etc. Marvelous info, incredible photography, a must see/read for any bird enthusiast, and a treat for the rest of you who don't know as of yet that you may well become one... It doesn't matter that our garden bird varieties aren't mentioned in particular, because watching and reading about birds will open your eyes and ears to the birds around you and make you appreciate them for the biological wonders they truly are. -- Oh, and yes, I upgraded to the DVD and gave the tapes to a good friend."
How did they film it???
W. Oliver | Alabama | 11/13/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 3 dvd set, comprising ten one hour programs on various aspects about birds (hunting, singing, mating, parenting, etc.) is utterly fascinating and informative. However, the most amazing thing about it is the incredible photography. A documentary should be made explaining how they filmed it! Here we see views looking up from the bottom of a lake as a kingfisher dives into the water and snags a fish - amazing! Birds in flight are filmed as thought you are flying along side them. There are also some rare species which were captured on film for the first time. A truly stunning documentary and very educational. I had only one minor complaint - there was very little information about common birds that you might find in your garden here in the U.S., but that is a minor detail that can be overlooked."