Science, Wildlife

If Australian animals don’t poison you or eat you, they’ll burn down your house

Already replete with sharks, crocodiles, snakes and poisonous jellyfish galore, Australia may also be home to arsonist birds that spread fire so they can feed on animals as they flee.

The belief that birds like the Whistling Kite, Black Kite and Brown Falcon spread grass fires goes back so far that it’s commemorated in indigenous ceremonial dances, according to Bob Gosford, a co-author of this paper in the Journal of Enthnobiology.

The paper posits that the behaviour isn’t accidental: Most accounts and traditions unequivocally indicate intentionality on the part of three raptor species and a handful provide evidence of cooperative fire-spreading by select individuals from within larger fire-foraging raptor assemblages, it notes.

And while the researchers’ main interest was to confirm and document those stories, Gosford told Vulture South the research is also important to understanding how fire spreads in Australia.

This may give us cause to re-examine fire history, and the conduct of fire in this country, Gosford said — via The Register

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