Bird Using Fire?

To: Birding-Aus Aus <>
Subject: Bird Using Fire?
From: Carl Clifford <>
Date: Wed, 13 May 2009 16:11:12 +1000
Dear All,

The following was posted on the WildbirdSingapore group and is said to be from an Etnoornithology forum.

A Remarkable Case of Tool-Using in a Bird
Author(s): Ashley Montagu
Source: American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 72, No. 3 (Jun., 1970), p. 610 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Anthropological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor. org/stable/ 673006
Accessed: 11/05/2009 12:34

Accepted for publication 18 February 1970.

To the growing list of tool-users among animals other than man should be added the Northern Territory kitehawk or, as he is called among the aborigines of that part of Australia, the firehawk. In the fascinating book about his life, I, The Aboriginal (Ade- laide: Griffin, 1962), written down by Douglas Lockwood, Waipuldanya, an abori- ginal of the Alawa tribe at Roper River, says, "I have seen a hawk pick up a smoul- dering stick in its claws and drop it in a fresh patch of dry grass half a mile away, then wait with its mates for the mad exodus of scorched and frightened rodents and rep- tiles. When that area was burnt out the pro- cess was repeated elsewhere. We call these fires Jaluran" (p. 93). Is this, possibly, the first recorded case of the use of fire by a nonhuman animal?

I presume the kitehawk is the Whistling Kite, as Kite Hawk appears to be one of its alternative common names. Has anyone ever heard of this behaviour? Perhaps some-one with access to JSTOR could read the article and let me know what they think? Perhaps one of the loacls was pulling the leg of the Anthropologist.


Carl Clifford

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