Australian Birds Of Prey Deliberately Start Bushfires


Two Australian birds – brown falcons and the black kites – are believed to deliberately start bush fires to coax their prey out of hiding. Researchers all over the world are studying how these birds of prey use different approaches to hunting for prey, including imprisoning live birds in rock crevasses.

Now, these two Australian birds have been spotted picking up burning sticks and then dropping them onto clear grounds to force small animals into the open. Patiently, they wait for the poor animals to emerge from the undergrowth. The birds then swoop down to catch their meal. Unfortunately, these small bush fires also attract many other birds so they ended up fighting for a meal.

To date, these birds have never been caught on camera but various sightings have been documented by indigenous people living in northern Australia. Firefighters and park rangers who put out the bush fires also made several sightings.

The accounts suggest that the raptors can carry sticks at least 50 meters (about 160 feet) in length and even 200 to 500 meters (about 650 to 1,600 feet). And they do this without the fire dying or singeing their own feathers.

Researchers are currently compiling more evidence for paper that would shed much light on the phenomenon. Apart from studying the pyromaniac activities of these Australian birds, the researchers are also exploring the behavior of their winged counterparts in the American or African savannahs.

Lawyer Bob Gosford, who studied the indigenous people of Australia, is also fascinated with these birds of prey. Gosford collected many accounts of raptor-made bush fires from 14 park rangers and from the Aboriginal community in Australia.

"Reptiles, frogs and insects rush out from the fire, and there are birds that wait in front, right at the foot of the fire, waiting to catch them," said Gosford.

Since the birds sometimes fight for their meal, some end up igniting a new bush fire so they'll have less competition.

Gosford has presented the research during the annual conferences of the Association for Fire Ecology and Raptor Research Foundation in 2015. He hopes to gather more accounts of the birds of prey in action, particularly videotaped accounts to confirm the alleged behavior of these mad birds.

The researchers are hoping that the publicity would encourage visitors to carry a handy camera so they can capture the action on film.

Photo : Ozzy Delaney | Flickr

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