What Do These Birds Have to Be Angry About?

Apparently, the answer is: a lot.

The bird world isn’t all carefree flights and sing-alongs. Tonight, we explore the more aggressive side of avian life, from the most majestic eagles to the smallest songbirds.

The Eagle: Queen of the Skies

What makes an eagle? Numbering at nearly sixty species worldwide, this proud but scattered family shares sharp eyesight, an intimidatingly large wingspan, sharp talons, hooked beaks, and a fighting spirit.

From the Amazon harpy, the golden eagle, and the African fishing eagle to a great variety of sea eagles and many more, all members of this clan know their place as rulers of the sky and defend it fearlessly.

Eagle parents work together to build their nests, or eyries, where they will incubate their eggs and feed their newly-hatched chicks for the first four months of their lives. After that, young fledglings will slowly begin the process of leaving the nest, taking off for good within a few more months and leaving their parents with a case of empty-nest syndrome.

Mature eagles prove their dominance by showing off their hunting prowess, battling over meals with other eagles and scavenging birds, like crows, which occasionally become dinner themselves. Competition for food also comes from seasonal migratory birds like swans and cranes, which eagles usually manage by setting out for new territory.

Tonight, we’ll follow an eagle embarking on her journey from the moment she hatches through the fledgling stage and ultimately to adulthood. Filmed in breathtaking slow motion by an award-winning camera crew, this journey will teach her what it takes to be queen of the skies.

The Real Angry Birds

Bird-versus-bird conflict isn’t just for video games. In the wild, the struggle for survival pits avian against avian in battles for food, resources, and territory.

Winter is the toughest season, with food becoming increasingly scarce. Cold-season hunger creates bloody conflicts between birds of prey, even leading smaller birds like the golden eagle to attack the much larger Steller’s sea eagle, hoping to steal its catch from the ice’s edge.

Photo of two bee-eater birds on branch in forest.
These bee-eaters wait patiently for the buzzing prey that has earned them their name. (Photograph by Klaus Weißmann, naturfilm.com / NDR Naturfilm / Doclights GmbH)

Springtime brings new groups of migratory birds to the temperate regions, and with them comes a new set of battles over territory. From paired swans to courting red-throated divers, couples of every feather search for nesting spots. Like all competitions, this hunt can get aggressive.

For many songbirds, though, the trials of spring are all about attention. Even the smallest wren uses its song as a means of marking its territory, warning would-be competitors to stay out—or else.

But sometimes, these loud bids for attention are intended to seduce a mate: for species around the world, springtime is the only chance they have to partner up, and no one wants to be left out. And even after the right mate is secured, nesting and parenting bring whole new sets of challenges and competitions.

With every day bringing a new battle, life isn’t easy. But for these birds, staying angry is the best way of staying alive.

Meet a new flock of angry birds this Sunday 7/12: don’t miss The Real Angry Birds at 9/10c and The Eagles at 10/11 c only on Nat Geo WILD!

Comments

  1. E.Z. Parnell
    USA
    July 12, 2015, 9:10 pm

    Mistake in the narration at around 56 minute of the Angry Birds segment discussing magpies and crows on a goat carcass. The narrator says a buzzard swoops in when it is clearly a bird of prey.