A fresh look at some of the most supreme predators in the animal kingdom. When it comes to catching dinner, a hyena, a great white shark and an osprey all rely on their power.
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Welcome to Natural Born Hunters,
where three of the world's top predators go head-to-head
in a race to eat.
To be the fittest, healthiest and at the top of their game,
they all need food.
Without it, they'll die.
We compare how they hunt
and why eating today really does matter.
But even for top predators,
meal times aren't always guaranteed.
Success and failure hangs in the balance.
Three will hunt,
but only one will be crowned today's Natural Born Hunter.
The question is, who are you backing?
-And I'm Barney.
We'll take you through today's amazing line-up of animal assassins
as they go head-to-head to feed first.
It'll be fast and furious, but we'll be there every step of the way.
-Who are we looking at today, Steve?
when you think predator, you think power.
And these three contenders all pack a powerful punch.
Their powerful muscles are critical for hunting.
But before they can eat, they have to find and follow their prey.
-Which isn't always easy.
-I can't wait to see these guys in action.
Our three hunters all have very different ways of getting a meal.
But all of them using their enormous power.
Here's our first contender.
-I'd recognise that laugh anywhere. Those are hyenas.
Contender number one is the spotted hyena.
Look at those teeth! I wouldn't want to meet those guys on a dark night.
They have phenomenally powerful jaws
and one of the strongest bites in the world.
With a force of half a ton,
they can crush bones like us munching popcorn.
That is sheer power. They don't actually eat the bone, do they?
They eat the bone, the hair, even hooves, horns and teeth!
They can pretty much digest the lot.
Not just a scavenger, but a predator you wouldn't want to fall out with.
Nice - food with hair on it (!) What's next?
OK, contender number two is the powerhouse of the oceans,
the Great White Shark.
I know that these guys are serious hunters.
With rows of razor-sharp teeth,
these super-heavyweight fish can deliver a bite of two tons.
-Sends shivers down my spine!
-They're powerful swimmers, too.
With bursts of speed of 25 miles an hour,
they can ambush their prey, catching them completely unawares.
-That's one big powerful fish.
-Too right. Now,
-our final contender.
-Wow, a bird.
Not just any bird, Barn. This is the osprey,
the bird that's mastered the art of the air and the water.
How can they be considered powerful after we've just seen a shark?
It may weigh the same as a bag of sugar,
but believe me, it can still pack one heck of a punch.
They're the ultimate fishermen. Their power lies in their muscles.
Most birds can fly. I'm not sure about this one's credentials.
After smashing into the water at up to 45 miles an hour,
they have to take off
carrying a fish that could weigh as much as they do.
-If they don't, they could drown.
-OK, I trust you.
That's our line-up. The spotted hyena. The great white shark
and the osprey.
But can you guess which one gets to eat today?
The hyena's powerful bite is half a ton,
the shark beats that with two tons,
and the osprey can carry its own bodyweight.
I'm gonna go with the shark.
Sounds like good reasoning.
But they have different amounts to eat in order to win the challenge.
To help you and everyone at home,
this fuel gauge will show you how our hunters are getting on.
The first one to hit full is our winner.
All will be revealed as we recreate a day in the lives of our contenders
as they battle to earn the title of most powerful natural born hunter.
This is our female hyena.
She hasn't fed properly for three days so really needs to hunt.
She lives with over 60 other hyenas in a loose-knit family group
called a clan.
A family that big, they must fight with each other.
Hyenas have different ranks in the clan based on how powerful they are
to stop any serious fights. Our mum is near the middle of the pile.
Order of importance for hyenas is different to other mammal societies.
-How is it different?
-For most mammals, the males are dominant.
But in hyenas, it's the ladies that rule the roost.
-They're the top dogs, yeah?
-I know they look like dogs,
-but actually, hyenas are more closely related to cats.
After finishing a few scraps,
our girl's making her way to a couple of new additions to the clan.
-Hey, two little ones!
-They're a couple of months old.
Our mum and the other females leave their youngsters here in safety
before starting the job of hunting.
Like dropping the kids off at nursery before work?
Exactly. Now Mum's back, they can tuck in to some very special milk,
jam-packed with energy, four times richer than cows' milk.
-A hyena milk-shake.
-And they need it.
Mum sometimes leaves the pups for days on end
when she's on a hunting mission.
It takes a lot for Mum to make such nutritious milk.
Without a decent meal in days, supplies are running low.
Eating one wildebeest calf would replenish her milk stores
but at this time of year, they could be 50 miles away.
Let's get better acquainted with our great white shark.
Just one? Where's the rest of the family?
Great white sharks live alone.
Our female's been swimming the vast oceans all on her own
since the moment she was born.
Mum didn't feed her or teach her how to hunt?
No, she's had to learn all that for herself.
But these guys are natural hunters. She should have no problem eating.
You'd think so, but she hasn't eaten for two months!
I thought I heard her belly rumble!
She can go for three months without food,
but she's pregnant with 15 baby sharks and is really hungry.
15? She'll need a big breakfast.
She won't make breakfast. She needs to get to the South African coast
where a big seal will satisfy her hunger. But she's a long way off.
We'll come back to her in a bit.
Time to check in with our osprey.
-More of a typical family set-up here, I see.
-We've got Mum, Dad and three chicks.
Looks dangerous for youngsters to be messing around on.
It is quite high, but they're safe from any predators on the ground.
Mum keeps a watchful eye on them too.
-What's Dad up to?
-A spot of home improvements.
-That is one big stick.
-Those powerful wing muscles are at work.
Ospreys add to the existing nest over the years. That nest
-is over 20 years old and is the size of a double bed!
I always wanted a tree house. Who does the hunting?
Both parents hunt. But if there are chicks,
Dad does most of the hunting leaving Mum to serve up dinner
back at the nest.
So he needs to catch how many fish?
There are three chicks, and he's got to provide for Mum
and grab a bite himself.
I reckon six fish today.
He'd better get cracking.
Conditions are looking good.
It's time for Dad to flex those powerful flight muscles
and find some fish for the family.
We'll bring you the action as soon as it happens.
Now you know a bit more about our contenders,
-do you want to change your mind, Barney?
-I'm sticking with the shark.
OK. Fair call.
Let's catch up with our hyena.
Mum's spending a few moments in the den suckling the pups.
She's off hunting, and could be gone for days.
-Does she go with the rest of them?
-Normally she'd go with a few others
in a small pack, but most of the clan have already left.
So today she's on her own.
It makes hunting more difficult, but she'll get all of the rewards.
So this is where the power comes in because she's hunting alone.
She can take prey more than three times her size.
You saw the bone-crushing power in her jaws.
But the real power in hyenas comes from their heart.
It makes up about ten per cent of their body weight,
30 times more than ours.
That's enormous. That's one powerful engine.
Exactly. That heart can keep her on a steady trot for ten miles,
wearing down prey like young wildebeest.
-Are babies easier to catch?
-They're easier than an adult,
but wildebeest calves are no pushover. Within minutes of birth,
they're walking and running along with Mum
and over a million wildebeest who are keeping an eye out for danger.
A million? She doesn't stand a chance of getting close.
Armed with her bone-crushing jaws and that powerful heart,
-she has a good chance. Unless...
-That is a lion.
-The "mane" event!
-(Lions have manes.)
-Anyway, lions and hyenas don't get on. In fact,
they're arch enemies and will often fight to the death.
These lions have invaded her clan's patch.
The pups aren't far away and are in potential danger.
A powerful hyena can see off a lion, surely?
Not on her own. Lions are four times bigger than her.
Hyenas rely on strength in numbers for protection.
Most of the clan are away hunting.
-This is disastrous.
-She's calling for back-up.
With her pups in danger, she won't back down without a fight.
This is a regular face-off.
Two of Africa's most powerful animals going head-to-head.
-But they've done enough to put the lions off - for now.
-That was close.
Our mum has to wait until the lions have left before it's safe to hunt.
Until then, let's catch up with our shark.
Our soon-to-be mum is still 12 miles away from the South African coast
and hasn't eaten for two months.
She's powering along. That must use up loads of energy.
Hang on, it's barely changed since this morning.
-She's already swum 12 miles. How can that be?
she is the ultimate predator when it comes to swimming.
She has special scales called denticles.
These denticles reduce drag
and her torpedo-shaped body means she's super-streamlined
cutting through water with ease.
-Like her teeth cutting through her dinner.
-She can't use her jaws yet.
She's got to get to the coast first. She should arrive late afternoon,
the perfect time to set her ambush. We'll catch up with her in a bit.
Back in Canada, our dad has found the perfect place
to do a spot of fishing.
-It sounds quite relaxing.
-Not for an osprey.
Plunging underwater is seriously dangerous when you can't swim.
So it needs powerful flight muscles to haul itself out of the water.
But they're not just for getting out of water.
Ospreys fly between Canada and South America every year
to find the best fishing spots.
That's 200,000 miles in their lifetime -
almost as far away as the moon!
Hats off to the osprey. They are powerful flying machines.
Another weapon is their razor-sharp eyesight.
Our dad has spotted a potential meal
from half a football pitch above the water.
Wow! That was sheer power. That was awesome!
Dad takes breakfast to his favourite perch,
grabbing a quick bite for himself.
But Mum has other ideas. The kids need it more
and she makes her feelings vocal, telling Dad to head home.
He drops off fish number one with Mum to feed the kids
and goes off in search of another.
So he's on the hunt again already. He's powerful but also super-quick.
Barney, let's see that incredible hunting technique in closer detail.
Phase one: surveillance. He flies round
searching for a fish. Once the target is in sight,
he hovers to get a better look at the prey.
Phase two: the stoop.
With the fish located, he folds his wings back
to drop down at speeds of up to 45 miles an hour.
Phase three: impact.
Just before he hits the water, he swings his feet into position
-which are a properly cool gadget.
-What's cool about them?
Unlike most birds of prey,
the osprey can actually twist its outside toe from front to back.
Two at the front and two at the back for better grip.
A double-jointed fishing bird!
-Ooh, he's disappeared.
-That is the most dangerous part of the hunt.
Once his talons are in, it's difficult to let go.
Since he can't swim, he only has a second or two to drag himself back
out of the water. Special pads on his feet help grip the fish
and he even turns the fish round, head first, in mid-air.
Like a jet with rockets pointing forwards.
Both designed for streamlined flying.
It's breathtaking to watch, but he's still got four more fish to find
if he's going to feed the whole family.
A couple of hours later and our girl's getting very close.
Time for another weapon to come into action -
her powerful sense of smell.
It's about 10,000 times more sensitive than ours
and can detect prey from three miles away.
She'll even stick her head out of the water
in order to sniff around.
-She can smell above the water, too?
-Smell travels faster through air than water.
It's thought she does this to smell her prey from further away.
But she can also see further, too. It's called spy-hopping.
She'll pick up a meal here. Look at all those seal meal deals!
But while they may look slow and cumbersome on land,
believe me, they are perfectly adapted for life in the water.
And with so many eyes looking out for danger,
it'll make our girl's job a whole lot harder.
Time to check on the state of play.
There's our hyena mum.
After a run-in with the local lion pride,
her energy is running even lower.
And she hasn't fed for three days.
And she still has the power to keep going.
Our great white shark hasn't eaten for two months
and is in need of food.
But she still has a couple of miles to go to reach it
before even thinking of catching it.
I still reckon the shark's gonna win.
Don't forget the osprey has already caught two fish.
-But he's got loads more to catch.
-You're pretty certain, Barn.
But I know you, Steve. You'll throw some spanners in the works.
You're gonna jinx it.
After seeing off the lions earlier, Mum is back to hunting.
And she's found the wildebeest herd.
-The chase is on.
-More like the trot is on.
Remember, her hunt is all about stamina.
That powerful heart maintains a steady trot
for ten miles, tiring her prey.
But she can also hit speeds of 40 miles an hour, so she's no slouch.
Hang on, Steve. Who's looking after the kids?
Good question. The mums who've already eaten are back at the den,
looking after all the pups.
But they only suckle their own.
Our two are getting very hungry
so Mum had better get a shift on.
It's close. Oh, she's got one.
If she can keep a hold of it, she'll get enough to be our winner.
Oh, who's this?
This is one of the other clan members.
Both are hungry. There's no point in fighting over her kill.
Our mum will just have to gorge down what she can.
-But it's just got a whole lot worse.
The two lions from the pride have turned up and they're hungry.
Our mum's hungry, too, but she's no match for them.
Time to grab what she can and leg it.
Lions are becoming a bit of a nuisance.
She needs a lot more food to make the high-energy milk for her pups.
While she looks for another meal, let's check out our shark.
Our shark has arrived at the South African coast
and only has one thing on her mind. Seals.
I'm not surprised. I'd eat a seal after two months without food!
The seals are safe on dry land.
But our pregnant mum knows they need to feed in open water.
That's when they enter the great white's world.
But it's an evenly-matched battle.
Surely those powerful jaws are like a seal blender?
Razor-sharp teeth and a two-ton bite are only useful
if she can get close enough.
Seals are difficult to catch,
twisting and turning their way out of danger.
She has to get really close without being spotted
so has a nifty trick up her sleeve.
Brilliant. Can't even see her sleeves!
Take a look at her colouration.
Dark on top and light on the bottom. A lethal weapon.
-How can colour be lethal?
-From above, sharks can't make her out
because she looks like the murky water. And from below,
it helps make her look like the bright sky above.
-Ah, the perfect disguise.
So she can get into the perfect ambush position
without being seen.
It's then just a question of waiting for the right moment.
A seal that drifts from the safety of the group is in serious danger.
I actually am on the edge of my seat, here.
Two fish down, but our dad still needs another four to win.
-He's not wasting any time.
-He's having the time of his life!
He makes it look easy,
but using those powerful flight muscles to get out of the water
is eating into his energy levels.
Yeah, look at the fuel gauge.
Next time, he'd better grab one for himself.
I think that's exactly what he's thinking.
Look at him go! Dad's on a roll. Number four already.
Yes, things are going well for our osprey. Four down and...
-Oh, and trouble. That is a bald eagle.
He's spotted Dad's fish and now he wants it.
Pesky eagle-eyed...eagle! But isn't our dad all powerful?
-Muscles and sharp talons.
-But the bald eagle is six times heavier,
with an even sharper beak and talons.
Not a bird to mess with. It's now a race to get back to the nest.
Look at that twisting and turning to get away from that eagle.
So manoeuvrable, but the strength of the eagle is much more impressive.
That was a close call there, Steve.
This is a regular dog fight. Well, eagle fight.
-Oh, no, he's dropped it, Steve!
-Yes, but he dropped it on purpose.
He's distracting the eagle so he can make a clean get-away.
Getting into a potentially deadly aerial battle was too risky.
-And he's still OK to hunt.
-But that must have used up a lot of energy.
He'll have to rest up for a while.
I thought he'd nabbed fish four.
Unfortunately not. He's down to three.
After losing her last meal to some lions,
our mum's locked onto a new target, a baby Thomson's gazelle.
It's the perfect meal for a tired hyena.
It could be game over, then.
She's looking tired, Steve.
I think she's too exhausted to carry on.
But the clan leader and her side-kick have just turned up.
Brilliant. Back-up when you need it.
They're all from the same clan, but the clan leader is hungry
and outranks our mum. When your boss is in town,
it means you sometimes just have to go hungry.
-But her pups depend on her.
-I'm afraid it's just as I thought.
She'll have to start all over again.
After careful searching,
our shark's spotted a potential meal - a lone seal.
And a chance to spring the trap.
With her target in sight,
she sneaks below the other seals.
-I love it. A lone shark after a lone seal.
After a couple of swim-bys, she's locked onto the target.
She turns her body to burst up from directly below,
making her virtually impossible to see,
so she can follow the seal whichever way it turns.
There's very little chance of escape.
She's in position.
-Just a dark silhouette above her and bam!
-Did she get it?
She's breached clear out of the water. I've no idea what's happened.
But it looks like the seal's got away.
Not only that, but they're chasing after her.
Have they got a death wish or something?
It may look dangerous, but it means they don't lose her.
They can keep an eye on her and that's confusing for our shark.
Her eyesight is ten times better than ours in low light,
but the sun is fading fast.
With so many seals on her case,
she cuts her losses, saving her energy for a hunt early tomorrow.
So have I got this wrong again? Is that it for our shark?
Yes, it is. But she'll be back first thing in the morning
and I'm sure her power will get her a meal.
I've got no idea who's gonna win now.
OK. One down, two to go.
For the hyena and the osprey, the battle for victory continues.
Our hyena mum hasn't fed for three days,
trekked a marathon, lost out on two meals, but still powers on.
Whereas our osprey dad got off to a great start,
catching three fish, but lost his last one to a bald eagle
and still has another three fish to grab.
This couldn't be any closer.
Our dad's taking advantage of the light and wind
in the latter part of the day.
-I like this guy. He's on fine form.
-He sure is.
Light winds means it's easier to control the dive
and the light's good too, with less glare on the surface.
And boy, does he go for it.
-Superb. How many has he caught now?
-That's his fourth of the day.
But still two more to go.
-If he keeps up this impressive display, he'll walk it.
The chicks look well fed now. The last two are for Mum and himself.
He's straight back out on the case.
After losing out twice earlier,
Mum just needs one big meal for herself.
I have to say, her determination is almost as impressive as her power.
But she hasn't had much luck. If she can get something and keep it,
-we'll have our winner.
-OK. Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Moose.
She needs to lock onto a target and go for it.
I reckon that young wildebeest is in big trouble.
-That could be slow.
-She's gaining on that one.
-Zeroing in. Yes.
She's picked it out from the herd.
Now it's all down to stamina. She's got to run it down.
Hang on, who's that?
It's the lion!
Not again! I tell you, our hyena is just cursed.
-She's stolen the meal?
-It's an easy meal for a lion.
Our hyena is left empty-handed. But she's not done yet.
Her main weapon is power. All she needs now is some back-up.
Our dad just needs two more fish.
-Light's fading fast so he's got to be quick.
He's stooping, he's in, he's got it, his fifth. One more to go.
-Surely nothing can stop him now?
-Oh, no, not another interloper!
-It's not a bald eagle, is it?
-No, it's a black-backed gull.
He's got some tips from the eagle about how to rob the dinner!
They nick my chips at the seaside.
-He's still got it, though.
This is just incredible.
Look at those twists and turns over the water.
-Oh, that's close.
-Almost grabbed his tail there.
-Go on, Dad!
-Go on, Dad! Oh, he's dropped it again!
And the seagull's got some easy pickings.
Our lion is tucking into the food,
but the hyena numbers are growing.
-That lioness is seriously outnumbered.
-The hyenas know it.
-So our mum's gonna get her meal. Brilliant.
-Let's see what happens.
The lioness looks like she's had enough and is giving up.
Yes, the hyenas are tucking in. Let's see how the fuel gauge goes.
It's moving up. I don't think the osprey can catch her.
Despite those gulls, our osprey heads in for another try.
-Bam into the water. Has she got one?
-Hang on, no!
-She didn't catch one.
She's shaking her feathers free of water, getting back into the air.
Now our hyenas are really tucking in.
-Let's see how that fuel gauge is going.
Can't see the osprey coming back, Steve.
A bit more and she can go home.
Dad's putting all his weapons into action.
Just two more for the win.
I don't think he has time, Steve.
This one is a nail-biter.
Oh, no, the lions are back!
This is a male lion that's been called in. He sees off the hyenas.
That is an angry cat. I wouldn't mess with him!
Have they managed to eat enough, though?
-It's ever so close, but not quite.
-I can't take any more!
She's not finished yet. She has to hope the lion leaves some scraps.
Just one more fish
as the sun goes down. He's caught it,
-but can he get out of the water?
Come on, you're doing so well.
All those hunts have drained his energy.
He's stuck. He really can't get out.
He has to take off or he'll drown.
The power of those wings, getting him out.
He's dragging himself out. I didn't think he had it in him, Steve.
No! Here comes another gull. Can he get free?
-Back to the nest!
-Come on, Dad!
He's just holding on.
And yes! There we have it, ladies and gentlemen. Our winner!
The fuel gauge is full.
Commiserations to our runners-up.
Our hyena should get more scraps after dark
and she will be able to feed her pups.
Our shark only had one chance of a meal,
but the seals proved too difficult in the end.
She'll be ready at first light, when she might have more luck.
The osprey may not be the biggest, but it punches well above its weight
and is our deserved winner,
earning the title of most powerful natural born hunter.
Join us next time when we'll seek out three more contenders
to earn the title of Natural Born Hunter.
Until then, goodbye! I need to lie down!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
A hyena, a great white shark and an osprey have one thing in common - when it comes to catching their dinner, they all rely on their enormous power. Featuring some of the most powerful gadgets in the animal world, the three contenders race to be the first to fill up their fuel gauge. Steve Backshall and Barney Harwood commentate on all the action during a day in the lives of these natural born hunters.