WE HAVE ALL BEEN TAUGHT THAT HUMANS ARE THE ONLY ANIMALS CAPABLE OF UTILIZING FIRE AND TURNING IT TO OUR OWN USE. TURNS OUT THAT’S NOT QUITE TRUE.
For years now Australian Aboriginal rangers have been speaking of birds of prey deliberately starting bushfires to flush out prey, which they then catch and consume.
To confirm this apparent fact there needs to be documented proof, finally in 2016 that is exactly what happened when ornithologist Bob Gosford observed what was going on. Since then he has been collecting and documenting eyewitness accounts of the fire-starting birds, publishing them in the Journal of Ethnobiology.
In a variety of reports, birds of prey, from falcons to black kites, from whistling kites to hawkes, all seen picking up burning or smoldering sticks from wildfires. What they did next was nothing less than amazing. They’d then fly up to 165 feet away and intentionally drop the twigs in unaffected areas, sparking new fires.
The accounts detailed the birds subsequently waiting at the edge of the fires, then snatching up small animals and insects as they flee from the flames. This method of flushing out prey could draw significant implications about the use of fire as a tool — namely, humans may not have been the first to learn how to control it.
You have to wonder whether this avian fire-spreading is happening elsewhere in the world. It could explain a lot about how controlled burns seem to jump across breaks and multiply.
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