News

Australia’s birds of prey are starting wildfires purposefully

And we thought swooping, dive-bombing magpies were a menace to society.

A newly-published research paper has confirmed that humans aren’t the only ones capable of starting wildfires. Australia’s birds of prey (such as the Black Kite, Whistling Kite, and Brown Falcon) can too.

Worse, they are doing it deliberately.

According to researchers, the birds start the fires in order to smoke out small prey from their homes in protected grassy areas. They usually pick up burning sticks and embers, then toss the flaming material onto their chosen hunting grounds, which basically makes them avian arsonists.

The National Post explains this phenomenon further: “The concept of fire-foraging birds is well established. Raptors on at least four continents have been observed for decades on the edge of big flames, waiting out scurrying rodents and reptiles or picking through their barbecued remains.

“What’s new, at least in the academic literature, is the idea that birds might be intentionally spreading fires themselves. If true, the finding suggests that birds, like humans, have learned to use fire as a tool and as a weapon.”

In response this revelation, researchers are now gathering reports of similar bird behaviour in other parts of the world. It’s been also hypothesised that the earliest humans learned how to spread fire by observing birds, not to mention that savannas were actually cleared by ancient birds (and not humans).

Damn, Australia. Your wildlife has absolutely no chill.