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Birds of prey are deliberately starting fires

Posted on Wednesday, 10 February, 2016 | Comment icon 22 comments

The fire-starting birds have been causing a nuisance. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.5 Thomas Schoch
Falcons and kites in Australia have been starting bush fires in an effort to smoke out small animals.
While nobody has yet been able to record footage of this behavior, the birds are believed to be picking up smoldering sticks and then dropping them over dry brush in an attempt to start fires.

Normally when there is a bush fire small animals are forced out of hiding and fall victim to birds of prey and other predators, but when a fire has been burning for a while, new arrivals to the scene miss out on the main course and end up having to fight with other birds for the leftovers.

To get around this problem, some of the birds have taken to starting fires themselves so that they can get a front row seat and eat whatever they want before any other birds arrive.

Several people, including the firemen who tackle these fires, have witnessed this remarkable behavior and it appears to be a problem that isn't going away anytime soon.

"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 lawyer Bob Gosford.

"Small fires often attract so many birds that there is insufficient fleeing prey for all, so a bird that was being beaten to its lunch might benefit from starting a new fire with less competition."

Source: | Comments (22)

Tags: Bird, Fire, Falcon, Kite

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #13 Posted by Aftermath on 10 February, 2016, 22:32
Birds do not care about the environment. Perhaps we should start prosecuting birds for arson; if they're so smart they must be competent to stand trial.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Sundew on 11 February, 2016, 3:12
Not surprising. Crows have been shown to have problem solving skills. All they're thought to be doing, although there's no video proof of it yet, is scooping up already smoldering branches of fires and transporting them short distances away to create fires elsewhere. Certainly an awesome display of cleverness, but nothing I wouldn't have thought birds capable of already. The birds were good a problem solving, lets hope they don't see man as the problem and burning down the towns and cities the solution!
Comment icon #15 Posted by AustinHinton on 11 February, 2016, 17:55
Cool. And there are people who say only man benefits from using fire.
Comment icon #16 Posted by Sundew on 11 February, 2016, 21:29
Cool. And there are people who say only man benefits from using fire. Lots of predatory animals "use" fire in that raptors and canids pick off fleeing insects, reptiles and small mammals running from the flames, or scavenge on those who did not run fast enough. This kicks it up a notch or two, starting the fires!
Comment icon #17 Posted by Codenwarra on 12 February, 2016, 0:41
Australian birds have had something like 60,000 years to learn this, since aboriginal people arrived with fire and stone tools. Maybe longer, as some Australian trees need fire for their seeds to germinate. Check the videos of New Caledonian crows / ravens from the University of Auckland, NZ, Cambridge & Oxford.They are thinkers, players tool users and makers, and will drop rocks in water to raise the level, just like Aesop said.
Comment icon #18 Posted by starblade on 12 February, 2016, 15:06
i think im going to turn myself into a bird...maybe i am the bird!! for you know the word...dont you??? its fire-feather of course.
Comment icon #19 Posted by Golden Amazon on 15 March, 2016, 1:59
I'd have to see it to believe it.
Comment icon #20 Posted by Lilly on 15 March, 2016, 2:42
Mr Hitchcock would have loved this development.
Comment icon #21 Posted by danielost on 15 March, 2016, 18:23
i have seen videos of crows drop nuts on roadways and letting the cars crack the nuts for them. but, i would think they would afriad of the fire lighting their feathers.
Comment icon #22 Posted by barbco196 on 15 March, 2016, 18:41
People need to start realizing animals are a whole lot smarter than we give them credit for.. Definitely. We measure intelligence by our human definition. I think the sheer number and longevity of non-human creatures proves they are leaps and bounds ahead of us in that arena.

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