By Terry Kelleher
December 24, 2001 12:00 PM

PBS (Tues., Dec. 25, 8 p.m.)

Avian sex on Christmas Night? Has PBS lost its sense of propriety?

Flying Casanovas turns out to be very interesting but not shocking. British naturalist David Attenborough shows us how male bower-birds in Australia and New Guinea attract females’ attention by building remarkably elaborate romantic hideaways. Using all manner of found objects—from twigs to berries to caterpillar droppings to colorful plastic junk littered by humans—the birds display a true aesthetic sense. If the environmental art puts a lady in the mood, the lovemaking takes place beyond camera range. More often, though, choosy females fly away unimpressed—or a male rival comes along and vandalizes the place. Seduction is no snap.

Attenborough may sometimes seem a stereotypical bird-watcher, panting for a peek at spectacular plumage. But his enthusiasm is contagious.

Bottom Line: Fine-feathered