Attenborough’s Wonder of Song: Sir David Attenborough chooses his favourite recordings from the natural world that have revolutionised our understanding of song. Each one – from the song of the largest lemur to the song of the humpback whale to the song of the lyrebird – was recorded in his lifetime.
When Sir David was born, the science of song had already been transformed by Charles Darwin’s theory of sexual selection: singing is dangerous as it reveals the singer’s location to predators, but it also offers the male a huge reward, the chance to attract a female and pass on genes to the next generation. Hence males sing and females don’t.
Today, new science in the field of birdsong is transforming those long-held ideas. Scientists are discovering that, in fact, in the majority of all songbird species, females sing – and it is only now they are being properly heard. Through this revelation and others, we can understand that animal songs are marvelous examples of the spectacular survival strategies that species have developed in order to stay alive.
Attenborough’s Wonder of Song
Sir David Frederick Attenborough is an English broadcaster, natural historian and author. He is best known for writing and presenting, in conjunction with the BBC Natural History Unit, the nine natural history documentary series forming the Life collection, a comprehensive survey of animal and plant life on Earth.
Attenborough was a senior manager at the BBC, having served as controller of BBC Two and director of programming for BBC Television in the 1960s and 1970s. His filmography as writer, presenter and narrator spans eight decades; it includes Zoo Quest, Natural World, Wildlife on One, the Planet Earth franchise, The Blue Planet and its sequel. He is the only person to have won BAFTAs in all of the categories black and white, colour, high-definition, 3D and 4K resolutions.
While Attenborough’s earlier work focused more on the wonders of the natural world, his later work has been more vocal in support of environmental causes. He has advocated for restoring planetary biodiversity, limiting population growth, renewable energy, mitigating climate change, reducing meat consumption, and setting aside more areas for natural preservation.
On his broadcasting and passion for nature, NPR stated he “roamed the globe and shared his discoveries and enthusiasms with his patented semi-whisper way of narrating”. In 2018 and 2019, Attenborough received Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Narrator. He is widely considered a national treasure in the UK, although he himself does not like the term. He is the younger brother of the late director, producer and actor Richard Attenborough, and older brother of the late motor executive John Attenborough.