Intentional Fire-Spreading by Raptors in Australia [research study]

Some birds intentionally spread fire from place to place, sometimes in cooperation with other birds, says this new study.

Intentional Fire-Spreading by ‘Firehawk’ Raptors in Northern Australia,” Mark Bonta, Robert Gosford, Dick Eussen, Nathan Ferguson, Erana Loveless, and Maxwell Witwer, Journal of Ethnobiology, vol. 37, no. 4, 2017, pp. 700-718. The authors write:

“We document Indigenous Ecological Knowledge and non-Indigenous observations of intentional fire-spreading by the fire-foraging raptors Black Kite (Milvus migrans), Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus), and Brown Falcon (Falco berigora) in tropical Australian savannas. Observers report both solo and cooperative attempts, often successful, to spread wildfires intentionally via single-occasion or repeated transport of burning sticks in talons or beaks.”

The Register has a writeup of the study, bearing the inflammatory headline “If Australian animals don’t poison you or eat you, they’ll BURN DOWN YOUR HOUSE.”

(Thanks to Scott Langill for bringing this to our attention.)

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