Birds may be causing wildfires to spread. Here's why
Friday, February 12, 2016, 2:03 PM - It turns out humans aren't the only ones who spread wildfires. Researchers have compiled a study of reports suggesting certain birds of prey in Australia are picking up smoldering sticks from brush fires and dropping them in dry grass as a hunting tactic.
Black kites and brown falcons are believed to be the culprits, as they start new fires in order to capture frogs, lizards, snakes and other animals rushing to escape the heat.
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"It's not gratuitous," Bob Gosford, who has collected the data told the Washington Post. "There's a purpose. There's an intent to say, okay, there are several hundred of us there, we can all get a meal."
Gosford is a lawyer and bird enthusiast who is currently working with scientist Mark Bonta from Penn State to publish their findings in a peer-reviewed journal.
Gosford has heard numerous accounts of Australian birds carrying burning sticks from firefighters, indigenous peoples and literature. However, the spectacle has yet to be captured on-camera.
"We're not going to be satisfied until we get this on video," Bonta told the Washington Post. "The birds aren't starting fires from scratch, but it's the next best thing. Fire is supposedly so uniquely human."
Bonta suggests it's possible ancient humans learned how to spread fires from observing birds.
The researchers hope others will monitor bird behaviour near fires. Gosford is also following up on a lead in West Africa, the Post reports.
SOURCE: Washington Post
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