With the recent outburst on terrible land management practices by humans, you might think that the frequent fires are also caused by anthropogenic actions. However, to the surprise of most people, birds are those highly insusceptible creatures that cause fires the most in northern Australia. This fact has been known by the aboriginals for almost or more than 40,000 years but, recently a newspaper has published a piece on how ‘Firehawk raptors’ – the Black Kite (Milvus migrans), Brown Falcon (Falco berigora), and Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus) are deliberately spreading fires and has further strengthened this fact by backing it up with hardcore data.
The Firehawk raptors bring about the fires by carrying burning sticks with them in their beaks and talons for as much as 0.6 miles hence starting the fires even where the flames have not been ignited. This behavior of the birds might look completely innocent and coincidental however, these prey birds transport the burning sticks and start fire consequently on purpose, to fulfill their dietary requirements. The fire cause small animals to come out to escape the ignition and that is exactly when these birds prey for their food.
“Intentional Fire-Spreading by “Firehawk” Raptors in Northern Australia,” Bonta et al. Journal of Ethnobiology, 37(4) (abstract): https://t.co/JJVomc5zDy #ethnobiology #ethnoornithology #birds #fire pic.twitter.com/Bv4oSA6BpC
— Bob Gosford (@bgosford) January 1, 2018
The whole research is properly compiled in the study carried out by Penn State University geographer and lead author Mark Bonta and co-author, Bob Gosford and published in the Journal of Ethnobiology. This latest study on the topic encouraged the piece on the newspaper and it has been taken positively by the authorities to improve the current land management, fire management and plant restoration projects.
Header Image Credits: Dick Eussen