The conversations of life

Proof Australia is the most dangerous place on Earth? Our birds are deliberately starting fires


A scary new study has revealed some native birds are burning their prey alive. How?

The birds have learned to swoop down and pick up burning sticks at the edge of bushfires. They then drop them in dry grass or bushes elsewhere to start new fires and flush out lizards, snakes and other prey they can feed on (and we wonder why overseas tourists are so terrified of travelling here).

One of the Twitter reactions to the news

Using reports of fire-starting birds collected between 2011 and 2017 in the Northern Territory, researchers have confirmed at least three birds – the Black Kite (Milvus migrans), Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus), and Brown Falcon (Falco berigora) – are responsible for spreading fire.

But apparently these “firehawks” are not a new phenomenon.

“We’re not discovering anything,” co-author Mark Bonta told National Geographic. “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.”

I don’t care though – fire-starting birds?! When they rise up to declare themselves our overlords, I’m bowing down immediately.

Lauren Broomham

Lauren is a journalist for, agedcare101 and The Donaldson Sisters. Growing up in a big family in small town communities, she has always had a love for the written word, joining her local library at the age of six months. With over eight years' experience in writing and editing, she is a keen follower of news and current affairs with a nose for a good story.

Discussion1 Comment

  1. Pingback: The case of the ‘pyromaniac’ birds: what the Australian firehawks tell us about evidence and anecdote | What We Talk About When We Talk About Fire

Leave A Reply