The Life of Birds (1998– )
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Signals and Songs 

The myth that birds only sing for pleasure is destroyed as birdsongs become known as ways of communication .


Joanna Sarsby

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Episode credited cast:
David Attenborough ... Himself - Presenter


The myth that birds only sing for pleasure is destroyed as birdsongs become known as ways of communication .

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Release Date:

25 November 1998 (UK) See more »

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Really does sing with endless pleasure
27 December 2018 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

For goodness knows how long, my sister has loved David Attenborough and his work and always will do. It's the same with me. His best work is some of the best ever produced, in the documentary genre and overall and when it comes to documentary presenting and narrating he is for us without equal.

Very rare to find a filmography that has nothing bad in it, but Attenborough's is one of those rare exceptions. One where gems are so many that if asked what is my favourite of his it would actually be impossible to give an answer. 'The Life of Birds' is still by any standards a masterpiece, in terms of documentaries about birds it's ground-breaking and it's a superb documentary in its own right. It has everything that makes so much of his work so wonderful and deserves everything great that has been said about it.

'The Life of Birds' sixth, out of ten, episode "Signals and Songs" covers the methods of communication between birds, exploring too that singing is not just for pleasure, and the high quality has not diminished at all. For me actually, this was one of the more interesting episodes.

"Signals and Songs" as always for 'The Life of Birds' looks wonderful, done with a natural intimacy (a great way of connecting even more with the birds), way, never feeling static. Its remarkably near-cinematic look makes one forget that it is a series, with the editing flowing smoothly and coherently and the scenery is gorgeous. Animation is also brought into the mix, not only does it hold up well it also is used sensibly, making an impact without being over-used and never jars.

Music is never overly grandiose while never being inappropriately placed or over-bearing. Have at times found music intrusive in some documentaries, Attenborough's work not exempted, but it was not a problem here.

Once again, "Signals and Songs" entertains and teaches and is never less than transfixing. In terms of the facts there was a very good mix of known and unknown, written tactfully and sensitively. It is all well-researched and backed up, speculation and too much storytelling are traps easily fallen into but not here. Likewise with the different species themselves, the information presented was illuminating and saw any familiar ones in a different light so familiar information instead felt fresh. The colour aiding recognition part illuminated me particularly. Can also relate to the singing not just being for pleasure too, it's the same with me with my singing, it's also one of my ways of communicating.

Have absolutely no complaints regarding Attenborough himself, never have, and he has always been a huge part of why he and his filmography are so highly regarded. Not many presenters and narrators in documentaries know their stuff better than Attenborough, if at all, and he knows what to say, when to say and how to say it. His delivery is ever sincere and enthusiastic, similarly it is understated yet always riveting, never preachy.

Whether as prey or as predators, the birds are a sight to behold. Their traits encompass a wide range, that makes them interesting and rootable without making them too human. The one that made the most impression on me was the superb lyrebird, in one of the most fascinating and beautiful parts of the whole of 'The Life of Birds' and actually for any documentary on birds. "Signals and Songs" is packed with content, it is absolutely amazing that it never felt over-stuffed or rushed when the length is not a long one.

"Signals and Songs" flows beautifully, has emotional impact, is cohesive in structure and it doesn't feel episodic. As said before, the over-speculation and fact compromising in favour of telling a story without backing things up traps are not fallen into, and both are easily done and have been in documentaries.

In conclusion, beautiful. 10/10 Bethany Cox

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