Wingbeats to the AmazonSouth America is a greater variety of birds than anywhere else on Earth
Flourishing in the wilds of South America is a greater variety of birds than anywhere else on Earth. Like its people, the continent¹s birds are unique and flamboyant. This superbly shot programme, WINGBEATS TO THE AMAZON, captures the more colourful, majestic and bizarre of South America's birds....the world's biggest and most colourful parrots, tiny hummingbirds not much larger than a bumblebee and stylish male mannikins that perform odd, vibrating dances to entice a female.
This documentary takes viewers on a journey across the bird capital of the planet. Supporting a quarter of all the bird species on Earth, South America is "the world's biggest aviary". The programme explains - with graphic vision - that South America's astonishing diversity of bird life boils down to geography. From tropical rainforests to snow-capped peaks not far from the shores of Antarctica, South America is a land of extremes.
The journey begins amongst the icy southern peaks of Patagonia. A windswept landscape, Patagonia is renowned for freezing temperatures and breathtaking scenery. Curious, camel-like animals, wander through the valleys and mighty Andean condors, the world's largest bird of prey, dominate the skies above.
The foothills below support flocks of Upland geese. In the grasslands slightly further north, big birds dominate. Ostrich-like rheas live here, the males engaging in flamboyant displays in a bid to lure as many females as possible into their harem.
Dotted throughout the Pampas and other South American habitats, there are king-sized swamps thronged with ibises, storks and wildfowl. Spread mainly through northern Argentina, Paraguay, and southern Brazil, woodlands are the next major stamping ground for South American birds.
And with sunrise comes the dawn chorus, an inspirational opera featuring close-up views of singing jays, thrushes, sparrows and a host of others. One bird, the oropendula, combines its song with a deep bowing action.
The final destination in this program is the renowned Amazon forest. Here, the greatest variety of animals and plants have come to live. Indeed four out of five of all South American birds survive in rainforests. Beasts and butterflies crowd the river banks, amongst them skimmers, Cattle egrets, Hoatzins and Jacamars. Star is the male mannikin - the most flamboyant resident of all, as he slides backwards, his feet never appearing to leave the perch. As well, there's toucans - with their enormous beaks among the most exotic of South American birds.
The bird-filled landscapes of South America echo to the sounds of literally millions of winged individuals, each taking part in a host of daily rituals. Many such customs may not be quite so spectacular as hundreds of giant macaws picking clay from a river bank at dawn each day, but they're all equally important. Over millions of years, the world's biggest aviary has given rise to some of the most flamboyant members of the bird family - every one of which has carved out their own unique style and associated survival techniques, ideally suited to this vast continent of extremes.