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Home -> Nature and Wildlife Photography: Birds -> EARTHFLIGHT: A Nature Special Presentation



EARTHFLIGHT: A Nature Special Presentation

Photo Credit: Courtesy of John Downer Productions


It takes us to the skies.  Experience an awe-inspiring journey of earth’s natural wonders, as never seen before, through the eyes of birds.

Episode One – North America. Snow geese flying through Monument Valley, USA. Credit: © John Downer Productions

From Episode One – North America: Snow geese flying through Monument Valley, USA. Credit: © John Downer Productions


What would it be like to see the world from a bird’s perspective? To experience riding on the backs of bald eagles and snow geese or flying alongside a flock of brown pelicans as they scan and dive for fish in the ocean below. State-of-the-art technology and sophisticated camera techniques have now made it possible to do just that and more as EARTHFLIGHT, A Nature Special Presentation takes viewers on a breathtaking aerial adventure over six continents.


Witness some of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles, struggles, migrations, and stunning landscapes from a bird’s-eye view when EARTHFLIGHT, A Nature Special Presentation Each episode is available for online streaming at pbs.org/nature.


It took EARTHFLIGHT series producer John Downer and his team four years to film more than 100 bird species in 40 different countries. Whether retracing the North American flight paths taken by thousands of migrating wild snow geese traveling to their Arctic breeding grounds or witnessing, for the first time, the aerobatics of devil rays as they somersault and splash back into the sea, the goal was to show the world on the wings of birds.

EARTHFLIGHT filmmaker John Downer (see his Q&A for the backstory on this image) © John Downer Productions

EARTHFLIGHT filmmaker John Downer (see his Q&A for the backstory on this image) © John Downer Productions

Q&A with John Downer, John Downer Productions:

How do you mount a camera to a bird?

The camera-carrying birds wore specially-designed harnesses. They were created to be as comfortable as possible and not interfere with the birds in flight. All the birds were trained to become used to flying with the harness before the camera was added.


Can you explain what using “imprinted birds” means?

Imprinting is a technique where birds are exposed to a foster parent as soon as they hatch. They then react to this surrogate parent as if it were their mother, following “her” wherever she goes. We imprinted our birds on selected crew members so they’d fly alongside their human “mother” as soon as they were able to fly, even if this person was in a moving boat or vehicle or even up in a microlight.


What do you hope EARTHFLIGHT viewers will take away from the series? 

I hope that people will discover that birds are clever and adaptable creatures often with a complex social life not so different from our own. They have an unrivalled knowledge of the life of the planet and through their remarkable journeys they bring countries and continents together in ways that are constantly surprising.


CLICK HERE to read more questions and answers with John.



To capture a view of the greatest gathering of wild flamingos seen in 20 years, the team employed a variety of spycams. Remote cameras were buried at a favorite drinking spot by Kenya’s Lake Bogoria, while another camera was disguised as a mini-flock of floating flamingos. To film scenes from above, a radio-controlled drone was used with great success to silently infiltrate masses of the skittish pink flamingos.


Watch a preview: