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Hawks caught starting fires in Australia

Posted on Saturday, 13 January, 2018 | Comment icon 8 comments

Several species of hawk seem to be guilty of arson. Image Credit: James E. Foehl / US Navy
A new study has revealed that some species of hawk deliberately start fires in the Australian outback.
When it comes to the spread of wildfires, few could have predicted that birds would be one of the worst offenders.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Ethnobiology, bird lover Bob Gosford and colleagues set out to find the truth behind Aboriginal tales of hawks spreading fire by picking up burning twigs.

It soon became apparent that this behavior was not only real, but that multiple different species of hawk were to blame including black kites, whistling kites and brown falcons.

One of the study's co-authors, who had been a firefighter in the 1980s, described one incident in which he had needed to extinguish seven separate fires started by a whistling kite.

It is thought that the hawks start the fires to help flush their prey out of hiding.

The researchers are now seeking out reports of this behavior by birds in other countries as well.

Exactly how many of the animals have picked up the habit however remains unclear.

Source: News Week | Comments (8)

Tags: Australia, Fire

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Hawkin on 13 January, 2018, 18:10
Very interesting. Maybe hawks in the US like in California are causing brushfires also.
Comment icon #2 Posted by seanjo on 13 January, 2018, 21:44
Why are they doing it? is it a deliberate act to flush prey that evolution has honed? or are they just picking up glittery bright objects like Magpies etc?
Comment icon #3 Posted by khol on 13 January, 2018, 22:36
Birds are incredibly intelligent animals. I wouldn't be surprised if it was a method of flushing out prey. Ive watched seagulls drop clams on rocks to break them open. Ive also watched crows observing this. Two will approach the gull eating its clam. As it is distracted by one crow the other grabs the clam!!   I have seen this happen a couple times!  There are many accounts of bird intelligence. What is instinctual or actual intelligence may be hard to decipher in some instances I suppose [More]
Comment icon #4 Posted by Hawkin on 13 January, 2018, 23:03
Seems that Sparrows and Starlings (though a pest) are more intelligent then say Robins and Cardinals. They will nest in your garage or in crooks of a house to get out of the weather then some birds that build nest in trees.
Comment icon #5 Posted by seanjo on 13 January, 2018, 23:53
In the UK the Sparrow population plummeted, they aren't pests over here.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Hawkin on 14 January, 2018, 0:45
I have a feeling they will plummet here as well. The temps have been as low as -20F to 10F for a good while.
Comment icon #7 Posted by seanjo on 14 January, 2018, 12:38
People have been blaming cell phone towers etc. I tend to think that the reintroduction of Sparrow Hawks into the UK may have more to do with it.
Comment icon #8 Posted by simplybill on 14 January, 2018, 15:35
I burn off my hayfield every few years to control the weeds. One time I counted six bald eagles sitting on fence posts and in trees, waiting for rodents to run out of the tall grass. It’s interesting that they’ve made the association between fire and easy prey.

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