The bird in question is the Black Kite, which arrives in gangs
at a grass fire. I have read complaints by people fighting fires that the
Kites deliberately swooped down to snatch burning sticks to spread the
fire further, and when we visited Kakadu more than 10 years ago, we heard the
same story from a Ranger.
Let's hope Denise sees this post. I am sure she will know.
> 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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