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Birds on Film: 10 Must-See Video Moments

Yesterday we suggested a few good books about birding (and got many more from commenters and Facebook fans—thanks!). But you can’t read all the time—so here are a few moments of video to immerse you in the color, sound, behavior, and diversity of birds. These first five are our own multimedia productions (see more at our YouTube channel):

1. Red-winged Blackbirds occur all over North America. Take a closer look at how and why males use their gorgeous plumage to defend marshy territories.

2. Sometimes your ears are all you need as a birder—especially when the glorious, haunting call of a Common Loon fills a misty summer night.
3. Shorebirds can flummox the keenest of bird watchers—but in this video we’ll walk you through the crowds assembled at a Louisiana beach, and help you recognize who’s who, by watching what they do.
4. At other times, it’s worthwhile to take a little extra time to appreciate a common species. Here’s a video introduction to the Mourning Dove, a widespread bird that may still surprise you.
5. If you’re new to birding or want to practice your skills, we’ve got lots of material to help you. Here’s one episode in our free series Inside Birding, about recognizing birds by their color pattern.

6. The Cornell Lab’s Macaulay Library is the world’s largest archive of natural sounds—and it’s got a growing archive of video clips too. Check out these incredible clips of a dancing Magnificent Riflebird (be sure to watch to at least the 1:00 mark), a group of Harlequin Ducks, and a Mangrove Blue-Flycatcher from the Philippines.

7. The BBC has been making top-notch nature programs for decades. A recent, amazing clip takes you into the air by putting tiny cameras onto the backs of falconers’ birds.
8. Listen to the Superb Lyrebird impersonate kookaburras and camera shutters in one of the BBC’s best-loved clips.
9. Go under the arctic waters as eiders pry mussels from the bottom, then rocket to the surface again.
10. Explore the anatomy of a kingfisher’s dive—from hover to splash to grab. Featuring incredible slow-motion footage.

You can watch many other BBC clips on their website (though not all are available for U.S. viewers). Even apart from the gorgeous footage, watching legendary host Sir David Attenborough appear in the wildest of locations is a never-ending source of enjoyment. Here’s a close encounter with a Wandering Alabatross to start with. Watch Sir David politely fend off an advancing adult without even stopping his sentence.

As with our books list, we had only a limited number of slots to work with—so let us know in comments or on Facebook what your own favorite video moments are.

The Cornell Lab

All About Birds
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American Kestrel by Blair Dudeck / Macaulay Library