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Australian ‘firehawks’ use fire to catch prey

Cara J

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For thousands of years, Australia’s Aboriginal people have sung stories about sacred “firehawks” — raptors that, according to lore, use fire to hunt and introduced fire to humans. Now, merging traditional knowledge, firefighter reports and other sources, an international research team has validated at least part of these legends. Raptor species in northern Australian savannas really do spread fire to smoke out prey. “This behavior has been widely seen — raptors flying around fires by the thousands in some cases,” said Mark Bonta, lead author on the paper published in the Journal of Ethnobiology. “They see smoke, and they’re on their way. They’re picking up a brand repeatedly until they’re able to take a fire across a road, river or firebreak created by humans. It’s intentional, as they’re going to fires and doing this because more prey are needed.” From 2011 to 2017, Bonta — an assistant professor of earth sciences at Pennsylvania State University — and his colleagues interviewed indigenous people, fire rangers, academics and others who had witnessed firehawks carrying fire in the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia. Their observations indicated black kites (Milvus migrans), whistling kites (Haliastur sphenurus) and brown falcons (Falco berigora) congregate around savanna [...]


Read more: http://wildlife.org/australian-firehawks-use-fire-to-catch-prey/

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