— CinemaRare (@CinemaRareIN) October 23, 2019
It’s a well-known fact that birds have funny and weird dances to attract mates, like the superb bird-of-paradise whose mating dance involves ruffling up its blue and black feathers into what looks like a smiley face and dancing around the prospective mate. Netflix’s “Dancing with the Birds,” which premiered on Oct. 18, provides more insight into these unique mating rituals. The documentary, which is a mere 51 minutes, is narrated by Stephen Fry (“V for Vendetta”) and directed by Huw Cordey (“Our Planet”).
The documentary travels around the world and splits the film into chapters based on the kind of mating ritual the birds have. Beginning in the jungles of New Guinea, the film introduces “The Swinger,” or the King of Saxony bird-of-paradise. The bird has long, brightly-colored head feathers that help females decide whether or not he is a worthy mate. When the King of Saxony is ready, he gets onto a vine and swings in all directions to impress his female counterpart. The most entertaining part of this scene is the big band music that is played in the background as he swings his little heart out.
Further on in the documentary, the film spends the most time on “The Artists.” The bowerbird is known for its courtship ritual that involves building a large structure, or bower, out of sticks and leaves to impress a mate. These feathery architects spend days, or even a whole year, constructing their bower and are constantly working to improve upon their creation and their interior decorating.
The kinds of bowerbirds the documentary focuses on are the flame bowerbird, one of the most brightly-colored birds in the world, and MacGregor’s bowerbird, who dons an orange-yellow crest on its head.
The flame bowerbird crafts two side walls out of sticks that make it look like a throne. Once a female takes interest in his bower, the flame bowerbird contracts and expands his pupils in order to lure the female closer.
Meanwhile, MacGregor’s bowerbird spends most of the year building a tower of sticks at least a few feet tall, an impressive feat for such a small bird. In one scene, one bowerbird was shown attempting to sabotage and destroy the structure of the original.
When a female comes by, MacGregor’s bowerbird begins the first part of his courtship ritual by showing off his mimicry skills, ranging from the barking of a dog to the voices of children playing. Next, the two birds play a quick game of hide-and-seek around the tower of sticks and later the male shows off the crest on his head. By impressing the female with these skills, MacGregor’s bowerbird secures a mate.
These are just a few examples of some of the fascinating birds in Netflix’s newest documentary. Although the documentary could benefit from being a bit longer, my only other complaint would be that some sound effects and music take away from certain scenes and may confuse viewers. For example, it’s made obvious these birds make unusual sounds, but when an eerie sound effect is added to the background, I couldn’t tell if it was the bird’s call or an aesthetic choice of the filmmakers.
Overall, the big band and funky music that accompanies many of the courtship scenes makes for an entertaining watch. For lovers of nature documentaries, “Dancing with the Birds” is a great film to add to your list.
Brandon Barzola is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.