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Ep2 The Life of Birds: The Mastery of Flight

Ep2 The Life of Birds: The Mastery of Flight
Ep2 The Life of Birds: The Mastery of Flight (49 min 17 sec)
Contributor: InitialDJay

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Nature & Wildlife
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David Attenborough presents a ten-part insight into the evolution and behaviours of birds. In this first programme, computer graphics recreate the period 150 million years ago when small, fast-running dinosaurs evolved feathers and took to the air. In New Zealand, David examines the environment required by birds which have survived without recourse to flight, and enjoys a midnight encounter with a kiwi, captured on a starlight-sensitive camera.

2. "The Mastery of Flight"

Broadcast 28 October 1998, 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 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.

Episode Lists:

1. "To Fly or Not to Fly?"
2. "The Mastery of Flight"
3. "The Insatiable Appetite"
4. "Meat-Eaters"
5. "Fishing for a Living"
6. "Signals and Songs"
7. "Finding Partners"
8. "The Demands of the Egg"
9. "The Problems of Parenthood"
10. "The Limits of Endurance"

Credit @ BBCWorldwide
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