For thousands of years Australia’s indigenous people have spoken about ‘firehawk’ raptors that intentionally spread bushfires in order to corner their prey.
Now, a new study has documented and confirmed the bizarre ritual of these firehawks, finding that at least three raptor species “act as propagators” of wild fire. Black Kites, Whistling Kites, Brown Falcons opportunistically prey on insects and small mammals fleeing from the fire.The behavior has not been photographed, but numerous sightings have been reported, and is woven into the culture of local Indigenous communities. This video certainly looks like the kites are involved.
There were only two proven sources of bushfires, man and lightning strike. But there are now eyewitness accounts of kites and falcons picking up burning sticks and dropping them them to restart a fire. This is an amazing find, as until recently only man was thought to use tools.
Co-author of the paper Mark Bonta, in an interview with National Geographic, said that Indigienous knowledge was critical to their research.
“We’re not discovering anything…Most of the data that we’ve worked with is collaborative with Aboriginal peoples… they’ve known this for probably 40,000 years or more,” he said.
The authors hope that the study will encourage a deeper appreciation of ancient indigenous knowledge.
“This has important implications for our understanding of the history of fire initiation in the Australian savanna, and for our appreciation of similar large-scale landscape modification processes there and elsewhere,” the paper reads.