New movies about condors, grassland birds, and more.


A new series of three short films titled Big Sur Giants from documentary filmmaker Ross Thomas takes viewers into the world of the California condor and the Ventana Wildlife Society biologists who work to protect it. Thomas accompanies Joe Burnett, a wildlife biologist from Ventana, to a wild condor’s nest deep in the Big Sur wilderness and watches an adult condor interact with its young chick in the crown of a giant sequoia. The two visit the Big Sur Sanctuary, which was destroyed by the 2020 Dolan Fire, and we see archival footage from the 2008 Basin Complex Fire that burned most of the wilderness of Big Sur. The films show biologists climbing a burnt redwood tree to rescue a young condor, Phoenix, and later we meet Iniko, who captured the heart of the world during the Dolan fire.

As Thomas learns, the biggest threat to condors isn’t wildfires, but rather the lead ammunition condors ingest when scavenging hunted animals. The films end with a call to action on how we can all help these magnificent birds.

The films are available for free viewing on YouTube and for streaming on Ecoflix or Cinema Verde. Learn more at The site includes a guide for educators to help them use the films to share the condor story with classrooms, civic groups and others.

A Shared Vision for Grasslands

A Chestnut-collared Bunting from one of Cornell University’s new films.

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In the Great Plains of the United States, more than half of the native grasslands have been permanently lost to cropland, energy and urban development, and tree encroachment. This loss threatens human economies and cultures, as well as wildlife communities, as land is claimed for other uses.

Cornell University’s Center for Conservation Media has made a powerful case for grassland conservation with the release of four documentaries on various aspects of the issue. The nine- to 12-minute films, available at, cover these topics: reducing the impacts of widespread fences on migrating wildlife while meeting the needs of Montana ranchers; control the spread of western redcedar in Nebraska; monitoring grassland birds in South Dakota to determine how changes in livestock grazing methods are improving ecosystem health; and highlighting the cooperation and collaboration essential to communities living and working in Montana.

Watch the movies here

Our planet II and life on our planet

A scene from Our Planet II. cr. © 2023 Netflix

For decades, PBS, the BBC and various cable networks have been the main outlets for nature documentaries, but now, with the popularity of streaming services, these films arguably have a wider audience than ever.

In 2019, Netflix launched an eight-episode series titled Our planet, and the company says more than 100 million households have tuned in to watch it since its release. Birds including penguins, cormorants, albatrosses and manakins all make appearances.

Late last year, Netflix announced it was deepening “our commitment to historical natural history documentaries with the premiere of six new series over the next few years.” The first in the series is our universe, which debuted in November and is narrated by Morgan Freeman. Later this year, Netflix will drop Our Planet II, narrated by David Attenborough, and life on our planet, narrated by Freeman. Our Planet II promises to unravel “the mysteries of why and how animals migrate to reveal some of the most dramatic and fascinating stories in the natural world.” In the meantime, life on our planet will explore the rise and fall of wildlife that has existed over the eons on Earth. The series “uses the latest technology and science to bring long-extinct creatures back to life,” according to Netflix.

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New films shine a light on the Golden Eagles