another migration

After the Cirrus Migration, you might want to see the film “Winged Migration”. Breath-taking ariel photography. The piloting of the camera planes must have been miraculous. In the close-ups of birds in flight you can watch separate wing muscles and vortex-ruffled feathers. Visually closer to “flying like a bird” then I ever felt in a plane, even in a hang glider.

In reply to:

see the film “Winged Migration”


Where is this film available?


Thanks for the review — this one’s on our list! You can find showtimes at, and see a preview either at’s QuickTime site or at official site for the film.
If you’d like to know more about the flight of birds, a great place to look is David Alexander’s book’s Flyers: Birds, Insects, and the Biomechanics of Flight. (There’s also a very cool article about bird flight in this month’s AOPA Pilot.)


My bride told me (in no uncertain terms) that tonight we were going to see Winged Migration. It was the late show – 9:45 p.m. at an out-of-the-way movie house, so we were the ONLY people in the place, which was a bit weird.
I was expecting an above-average nature movie; I was awestruck (or gobsmacked, as a friend of mine would say). It was visually stunning as others have described, and I found myself saying “WOW” a lot – but also doing a lot of sucking in of breath, and some laughing.

The opening credits claim that no special effects were used in the filming of the birds. For me that stretches the bounds of belief in some of the shots - or at least, it stretches the definition of “special effects”. It matters not a jot – this is a must-see for anyone who enjoys this forum.

Click here for the web site.

Thanks, Lil!

  • Mike.

Here’s a review I read about the movie:

Jacques Perrin is for the birds. The French actor turned filmmaker proves just how much in the sublime avian homage Winged Migration, which opened Friday.

To make the Oscar-nominated documentary, he embarked on a fabulous journey, abandoning the countryside and towns, for a tour of the planet with migrating birds.

Inspired by Canadian naturalist, filmmaker and pilot Bill Lishman, whose work with wild geese inspired the feature Fly Away Home (1996), Mr. Perrin tackled the project that would take him across all seven continents.

Mr. Lishman’s “research was on the relationship you can have between animals and human beings,” Mr. Perrin says. “You take the goose and you become its parent.”

When Mr. Lishman took off in an UltraLite motorized aircraft with a flock of imprinted, migrating geese, it was, Mr. Perrin says, “the first time in all the story of humanity. It was the dream of Leonardo da Vinci, the dream of so many people.”

As producer, Mr. Perrin’s many films include Le Peuple singe a.k.a . Monkey Folk (1989) and Microcosmos (1996), a captivating look at insects using high-powered lenses. After seeing Mr. Lishman’s experiment on film, he, too, dreamed of flying alongside birds on their biannual odyssey.

“I wanted to follow them for one year from North Pole to South Pole,” he says.

To prepare, he says, “We took 1,000 eggs from 25 different species, cranes, pelicans, ducks, storks, et cetera, and there were between 30 and 40 of each species.”

At the same time, he says, “We engaged students whose work during the four years was to be always with the birds, for eating, for sleeping, each moment so the birds would have confidence with the youngsters.”

Raised in France, where they heard humming motor sounds before hatching, many of the birds seen in the film were taken to their native habitats, released and filmed as they migrated alone or with wild fellow travelers.

“It was not they follow us,” he says. “It was we follow them. Imprinted means the birds are always free. They are not obliged to do something. They do what they want. When they don’t want to fly, they don’t want to fly. We are obliged to wait.”

The genetic memory of the birds for migratory routes remains a mystery, he says. “We know so few things about migration. Why do they go 10,000 kilometers, 20,000 kilometers? They go to a precise point. Sometimes they go without parents.”

Five crews of more than 450 people, including 17 pilots and 14 cinematographers, were involved in the effort to follow the birds in planes, gliders, helicopters, balloons and boats.

“We had seven crashes, but nobody was killed,” he says. “It was break an arm, break a leg. It’s very dangerous to think ‘I am a bird’.”

Because they’re unafraid of humans and are easy targets of hunters, he says, game birds from the film live protected on a large preserve in Normandy near the D-Day beaches.

“We are responsible for them,” he says. “I want to be involved. I want to protect them.” Though at nearly 62, he’s not sure he’ll be around for the pelicans, who, he says, can live 70 years.

For a scene about the kind of jeopardy birds face en route, he visited an oil spill off the French coast but was too horrified at what he saw to use it in his film.

So the scenes with geese wading through what looks like industrial pollution were shot on a soundstage. That’s milk mixed with black vegetable dye, not petroleum, on the ground.

And those crabs seen attacking a bird with a broken wing in a beach scene are really feasting on a fish. The bird was snatched away.

With its scenes over places such as Paris, Monument Valley and New York City (with the Two Towers still standing), the film is breathtaking balm for the soul. But it’s more than a feathered travelogue.

“I wanted to prove to the public that it’s a terrible life to be a bird because you are in danger each moment,” he says. “Life is against you, so you must fight for survival.”

If you’ve been undecided about whether to see this movie, perhaps the revue in the June 16th TIME will swing you. The article is titled Goose Pimples via Geese; the sub-head reads "A don’t-try-this-at-home documentary on bird migration is aesthetically, soaringly riveting"

  • Mike.

In reply to:

Where is this film available?

It’s in some large-market mainstream theaters – a dozen or so in the SF Bay Area – but I don’t know how widely distributed it is. It lost the Academy Award for best documentary to Bowling for Columbine. But this is one that you’ll want to see more than once.

Another nice book on the physics and engineering of flight is “The Simple Science of Flight” by Henk Tennekes. It has some great scatter plots (relating weight and cruising speed, for example) which show flying things ranging from midges to 747s all together.

I also loved “Winged Migration”. I’d really like to see a movie about how it was made.


I agree, Tennekes’ book is a very nice one indeed.
As for a movie about the making of “Winged Migration” — I’m with you, and I’ll bet you that there will be something of that sort included when the movie comes out on DVD! (We just bought the DVD of the last James Bond movie, and it comes with nine hours of extra features! “Do you expect me to watch all these extra features, Goldfinger?” “No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die!”)


If you can read French, the website has some good information on the making of Winged Migration, including several neat video clips of ultralights, paragliders, and ballons flying along with the birds. If you can’t read the French, start by clicking on “Le making of” [:P], and then “Lieux de tournage” or “Moyens techniques”.

Thanks! I do not usually go to movies, but that’s one I’d certainly want to see. Your bride took the initiative to take you, but I’ll take the initiative here. She’s into nature and especially birds, and I’m into planes. Does that sound familiar to any of you?
My silent wish is to get her to see the beauty of flight through that movie and join me more often in flying the SR20. Now, one little problem: Guess Sony first wants to reap the benefits of the investment by covering the US market first. Any of you know when and where it’ll be shown in the old world down here?

In this case, the “old world” was way ahead of the new. This movie was released in Europe (or at least in France) in December 2001, so you might have to wait for a re-release or the DVD. The original French website is