So much for fire control – JoNova reports that raptors have been photographed congregating on the edge of large Australian bushfires, picking up burning sticks, and deliberately setting new spot fires in advance of the main blaze to flush out small mammals and other prey. This discovery potentially has profound implications for fire management in places like California.But, significantly, no pictures of hawks carrying burning material. I can easily believe hawks gathering near the advancing front of a fire to take advantage of panicked prey seeking to escape it. I have a much more difficult time imagining hawks moving burning material around to set fires and create a new opportunity. Too many steps in the causal chain for a bird brain to master. But I can easily imagine an Abo thinking it up.
Burn, Baby, Burn: Australian Birds Steal Fire to Smoke Out PreyRead more (contains photographs): https://www.livescience.com/61375-fire-spreading-raptors.html
By Mindy Weisberger, Senior Writer | January 9, 2018 11:23am ET
Grassland fires that are deadly and devastating events for many kinds of wildlife are a boon to certain types of birds known as fire foragers. These opportunists prey on animals fleeing from a blaze, or scavenge the remains of creatures that succumbed to the flames and the smoke.
But in Australia, some fire-foraging birds are also fire starters.
Three species of raptors — predatory birds with sharp beaks and talons, and keen eyesight — are widely known not only for lurking on the fringes of fires but also for snatching up smoldering grasses or branches and using them to kindle fresh flames, to smoke out mammal and insect prey.
Scientists recently collected and evaluated reports from Aboriginal and nonindigenous people of these so-called firehawks — black kites (Milvus migrans), whistling kites (Haliastur sphenurus) and brown falcons (Falco berigora) — to better understand this unusual behavior, and to evaluate its implications for fire management in regions where the birds are active, the researchers wrote in a new study.
Aboriginal people in some parts of northern Australia referenced the fire-spreading actions of firehawks in sacred rituals and noted numerous sightings of the firehawks. In total, the study authors identified 12 Aboriginal groups in which people described firsthand sightings of raptors deliberately setting new fires with smoldering brands salvaged from existing fires, acting on their own and cooperating with other birds.
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