Animal minds Intelligent Design

Animal minds: Australian birds that use fire as a tool

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birds spread fires to smoke out rodents/Dick Eussen

From Mindy Weisberger at LiveScience:

Three species of raptors — predatory birds with sharp beaks and talons, and keen eyesight — are widely known not only for lurking on the fringes of fires but also for snatching up smoldering grasses or branches and using them to kindle fresh flames, to smoke out mammal and insect prey.

From their reports, a behavioral pattern emerged: Firehawks (also described as kitehawks, chickenhawks and, on several occasions by non-Aboriginals, s—hawks) purposely swiped burning sticks or grasses from smoldering vegetation — or even from human cooking fires — and then made off with the brands and dropped them into unburned areas to set them alight, presumably to drive out more prey. More.

Also, from Peter Dockrill at ScienceAlert:

This behaviour, documented in interviews with the team and observed first-hand by some of the researchers, sees prey driven toward the raptors by a wall of flame, enabling them to engage in a feeding frenzy upon fleeing or scorched land animals.

It would be really interesting if we found birds that actually start fires for this purpose, as opposed to spreading them. However, even spreading the fire requires cognitive awareness of the effect of fires on rodents combined with awareness of the effect of spreading the fire.

See also: Does intelligence depend on a specific type of brain?

3 Replies to “Animal minds: Australian birds that use fire as a tool

  1. 1
    JSmith says:

    We seldom give animals credit for the intelligence that they have. What would be interesting to know is whether this is a learned skill, or an instinct.

  2. 2
    polistra says:

    In America wildfires are spread by the results of Endangered Species laws. In Australia wildfires are spread by the Endangered Species itself.

  3. 3
    JSmith says:

    P

    In America wildfires are spread by the results of Endangered Species laws.

    This has to be the stupidest statement I have read here in a long time. Wildfires are the result of us, over the last century or more, trying to prevent them in order to maximize forestry. You can’t sell a charred stump of a tree to a developer to build a house. Sadly, this has resulted in the elimination of the natural fire breaks that are seen in natural systems.

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