Sir David Attenborough was’seriously impressed’ by a peculiar mating ritual revealed in a forthcoming episode of Planet Earth III.
When discussing a portion that would appear in the new Forests edition of the BBC show, which airs on Sunday, the scientist and TV presenter, 97, said, “bird courtship is just one of the most dramatic sequences you can get.”
‘It’s designed to impress a female, and it impresses you,’ he added.
It depicts a male Temminck’s tragopan ‘pushing up a pair of horns and a rainbow bib’ in the intention of impressing a female in central China’s hilly woodlands.
Sir David, who recently had a long-beaked echidna named after him with the spine of a hedgehog, the snout of an anteater, and the feet of a mole, explained: ‘In tropical circumstances there is a superabundance of food, he’s got time to spare and therefore what he does with it is to say “I’m now going to show you something, honey, that you’ve never seen before”. And it’s true.
‘It’s nature sort of showing off. And the way in which, in this rather demure way, she says “I think you’re rather boring and I’ll go somewhere else” is really very engaging.’
It took six weeks to record the mating ritual in the wild for the first time.
‘Capturing this amazing courtship performance in the wild was a great challenge since the birds are so secretive and dwell in isolated tough terrain,’ said Forests producer and director Sarah Whalley.
‘Our crew waited six weeks to get the shot, and wow was it worth it.
‘David was certainly impressed, and we can’t wait to share this charming behaviour with everyone at home.’
The episode is billed as Sir David’s journey into the ‘hidden world of forests where lives are entwined in the most unexpected of ways’.
It is set to include the temperate rainforests of Canada, where ‘rarely seen spirit bears fish for salmon’, to the teak forests of India, where ‘whistling wild dogs work together to bring down prey three times their size’.
Meanwhile, in the dense tropical rainforest, ‘treehoppers form surprising alliances to fight off assassin bugs’ and ‘oriental pied hornbills go to incredible lengths to protect their young’, the BBC previously said.
Sir David said: ‘This is a world where nothing is quite as it seems – full of strange connections, often hidden from us.
‘Only now are we beginning to see life in the forest from a new perspective.’
Planet Earth III continues on BBC One at 6.20pm on Sunday, November 19.