Firehawks


Black Kite

Australia is no stranger to fire: The hardy landscape is adapted to blazes, enduring many thanks to humans and lightning. But Australia’s Aboriginal peoples have long identified a third cause: birds.

❝ In interviews, observations, and ceremonies dating back more than a century, the indigenous peoples of Australia’s Northern Territory maintain that a collective group of birds they call “firehawks” can control fire by carrying burning sticks to new locations in their beaks or talons.

The idea is that these birds of prey use fires to help find food—making easy meals out of insects and other small animals trying to flee the blaze…

❝ The anecdotes, compiled in a recent study published in the Journal of Ethnobiology, may lead some to rethink how fires spread through tropical savannas like those in northern Australia.

Terrific article. Especially including the natural history recorded by onlookers for generations.