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If you’re obsessed with the avian world, then finding a few hours each week to go and birdwatch at your favorite spots simply isn’t enough to satisfy your need and scratch that itch. So, what is an avid birder to do in the hours that they can’t be out searching for and spotting their favorite feathered specimens?
There was a time when you were mostly confined to watching whatever was on your television unless you owned a particular film on tape. Those days are long gone though. Today, we can watch practically anything we want with just a few button-clicks, including some incredible films and documentaries on our favorite subjects: birds. For those who can’t get enough of these flying feathered phenomena, the following 15 bird-related documentaries and movies should help to satisfy your cravings when you can’t be out viewing birds in real life. So, prepare to switch from a binocular lens to a camera lens as these films provide a birds-eye view into the avian world.
Though there are some films and documentaries with recognizable names on this list, you won’t be faulted if you’ve never heard of A Birder’s Guide to Everything, though you should have if you’re a big fan of birding. This coming-of-age film is about a group of young boys who go on a road trip in search of the Labrador Duck, which is thought to be extinct. Along the way, the experiences they face change them all in ways they could have never imagined. Birding legend Kenn Kaufman was used as a consultant during the production of this movie and even makes a cameo appearance.
This movie is a heartwarming tale about a young girl. After her mother passes away, she’s forced to go and live with her dad, but their relationship is on rocky ground. But the girl discovers a flock of geese that’s also motherless. Without a mother, the geese don’t know how to migrate south to find warm weather in the winter. So, the girl and her father set out on an adventure to train them to migrate using their ultra-light airplane.
Few bird movies feature the sort of big names you’ll find acting in The Big Year. We’re talking about recognizable stars like Owen Wilson, Steve Martin, and Jack Black. In this movie, the three are chasing a “Big Year,” which is a real-life competition between birders to see who can observe the most species of birds in a single calendar year. To be fair, this movie got some tough love from critics, but if you’re a birding fan, then it should appeal to you more than the average person and we think you’ll enjoy it.
If you don’t recognize David Attenborough’s name, you’ll certainly recognize his voice. He’s the most prolific narrator of nature films and documentaries to ever live. In this film, he dives into the story of how birds of paradise have captured the hearts and minds of many great thinkers, explorers, artists, and more, throughout many generations of human history.
When you think of an urban jungle such as New York City, New York, most people imagine high-rise buildings, massive crowds, stores stacked on top of each other, and other similar pictures. But after watching Birders: The Central Park Effect, you might have a different idea. This documentary is centered around the expansive range of wild birds that live within Central Park. Furthermore, it tells the story of the many native New Yorkers whose lives are centered around the migrations of these colorful and wondrous creatures. After watching this documentary, you’ll never think of New York City the same way again.
This documentary comes straight from Disney Nature. Filmed around the desolate but incredible Lake Natron, located in northern Tanzania, this documentary captures a sight that’s truly majestic to behold. You’ll get to see more than a million flamingos arrive at the lake, ready to follow in their parent’s footsteps and continue the circle of life. A truly beautiful experience that allows you to get up close and personal with flamingos in a way that few people have ever been able to do in real life.
Earthflight is a massive undertaking that offers incredible sights you’ve never seen before. Filmed across six continents, this documentary aims to allow you to experience what it’s like to fly from the point of view of many different bird species. First aired in 2011, this film took some incredible ingenuity to produce. To give you the effect of flying from a bird’s point of view required some unique filming techniques, including helicopter drones and tiny cameras that were strapped to the backs of birds.
With a 94% Tomatometer and 81% audience score on rotten tomatoes, March of the Penguins is a documentary that’s almost universally loved by those who’ve watched it. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, this documentary follows the migration of emperor penguins as they make their annual journey to their breeding grounds, culminating in a spectacular mating ritual that’s captured on film for you to witness as if you were there in person. Though the migration seems difficult, life only gets harder once the egg hatches and the mother has to find her way back to the sea to gather food for her newborn chick and to nourish her own starving body.
To the Kazakhs, being an eagle hunter is a deep honor. It’s a tradition that has been handed down from father to son for not just several generations, but centuries. But times are changing. One girl, Aishol-pan who is just 13, desperately wants to become the first female eagle hunter in her family in over 12 generations. Many of the eagle hunters despise the idea of a female participating in the ancient and sacred tradition. However, Aishol-pan’s father believes in her. The Eagle Huntress follows Aishol-pan’s story as she trains to become an eagle hunter, fighting through challenges and tradition to prove that she has what it takes.
This documentary series, voiced by none other than David Attenborough, takes a close look at 300 different avian species. There are ten episodes in all, each spanning nearly an hour of incredible footage and information. Originally released in 1998, this series is so iconic that it doesn’t even feel dated today in 2021. With four awards, including a Peabody award in 2000 and a Broadcasting Press Guild Award in 1999, this series is one of the most prestigious documentaries ever made about birds.
After more than 5,000 audience ratings on rotten tomatoes, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill still has an 85% score, plus a 95% Tomatometer rating from critics. It’s an interesting documentary about a homeless musician whose life undergoes an amazing transformation after finding a flock of wild parrots in San Francisco. The man forms a deep bond with these birds, coming to understand and appreciate each of their individual differences and identities over time.
This documentary took three years to film and the incredible footage found within was captured across all seven continents. It was nominated for a best documentary Oscar in 2003 and won a slew of other awards in 2003 and 2004. The film follows several migratory bird species as they travel hundreds or even thousands of miles on their annual migration. There are even species, such as the arctic tern, that fly from one pole all the way to the other. It’s an incredible documentary that captures the migration of these birds in a way that’s rarely seen.
Featuring the voices of some big-name actors including Hugh Jackman, Brittany Murphy, and Elijah Wood, Happy Feet is an animated movie about a group of Emperor Penguins who find their mates through the magic of song. But one little penguin can’t sing, making it an immediate misfit. This little penguin named Mumble has a hidden talent though: his dancing! Mumble has to face some major challenges as he is cast out of the community and must find his own way in the world.
Another animated children’s film, Legend of the Guardians tells the story of Soren, a young barn owl that gets kidnapped. He finds himself in an orphanage called St. Aggie’s. Unfortunately for our little hero, the leaders of this orphanage are truly wicked, and they’re building an evil army of owls. Soren must escape with his new friends to the island of Ga-Hoole, so that they may warn the noble owls about the coming danger and help them to defend against the evil St. Aggie’s army!
Rio is an animated kid’s movie set in the city of Rio de Janeiro and the rainforests of Brazil, made by the same people who created the Ice Age movies. This movie is focused on the hilarious adventure of Blu; a rare macaw who believed he was the last of his species until he hears of a lone female that lives in Brazil. While trying to find her, Blu and his best friend Linda get captured by smugglers, who they must escape in order to find Jewel, the female macaw that Blu is searching for.
Many people look down on obsession. But if you’re obsessed with birds, you know it’s an addiction that simply can’t be broken. And why try? There’s nothing unhealthy about enjoying the majesty of a bird in flight. However, the fact remains that we can’t always be out in the field watching our favorite birds through binoculars. Thankfully, there are many quality movies and documentaries on our feathered friends that can allow us to peak into the avian world even when we’re stuck at home.
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Featured Image: mohamed_hassan, Pixabay
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An avid outdoorsman, Dean spends much of his time adventuring through the diverse terrain of the southwest United States with his closest companion, his dog, Gohan. He gains experience on a full-time journey of exploration. For Dean, few passions lie closer to his heart than learning. An apt researcher and reader, he loves to investigate interesting topics such as history, economics, relationships, pets, politics, and more.
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