Birds of prey are starting fires DELIBERATELY

To: 'COG List' <>
Subject: Birds of prey are starting fires DELIBERATELY
From: Philip Veerman <>
Date: Fri, 12 Feb 2016 03:12:31 +0000

The story of the Lammergeier appears to me from what I have seen on film or read to be a widespread behaviour of the species and that suggests likely has an instinctive component, so maybe not entirely learned or I should say maybe not entirely cognitive. Although it is very likely to have a learned component in terms of birds practicing and learning the skill to do it well. The Golden Eagle (or is it another) has been reported to catch turtles and fly up with them and drop them onto rocks to enable eating them.


Of course Duncan’s correction is also right about the birds spreading (not starting) fire.


Another tiny possibility is the birds might get some sensual pleasure from the smoke, in the same way that some birds like putting ants on their feathers.




From: Baird, Ian [
Sent: Friday, 12 February 2016 12:09 PM
To: Philip Veerman; 'COG List'
Subject: RE: [canberrabirds] Birds of prey are starting fires DELIBERATELY


It seems quite plausible to me that Australian birds of prey of the species mentioned could learn to do this. Actually demonstrating it experimentally is another matter, of course.

If a large bird of prey (eg. Lammergeier) can learn to drop rocks from a height to break bones to extract the marrow, fire spreading under favourable circumstances seems quite straightforward to me, by comparison. I find the Aboriginal endorsement and indirect cultural evidence quite persuasive. It wouldn’t have to be a flaming stick either, a glowing ember at one end of a mostly unburnt stick would serve just as well.

Ian Baird


From: Philip Veerman [
Sent: Friday, 12 February 2016 10:18 AM
To: 'COG List'
Subject: [canberrabirds] Birds of prey are starting fires DELIBERATELY


Well it all revolves around the word “DELIBERATELY”......... Of which we can’t know. Sure they could, as “Steve Debus, from the University of New England, an expert in predatory birds said he believed it would be difficult for researchers to distinguish between birds incidentally grasping burning twigs with prey and those deliberately picking them up.”


But surely once flying with a burning stick the impulse would be to fly away from it and then drop it, as the disadvantage of not dropping a burning stick would be rather extreme.




From: Martin Butterfield
Sent: Friday, 12 February 2016 9:14 AM
To: Geoffrey Dabb
Cc: COG List
Subject: Re: FW: [canberrabirds] Birds of prey are starting fires DELIBERATELY


What that link says is something about the Daily Mail.  When I grew up in the UK my Dad used to refer to that journal as the "Daily Liar" (which given that he was a Daily Express reader, is a pretty big call).


On 12 February 2016 at 08:59, Geoffrey Dabb <> wrote:

The ‘THIS MAY ALSO INTEREST YOU’ link says something about this item …


From: kym bradley [
Sent: Friday, 12 February 2016 8:07 AM
Subject: [canberrabirds] Birds of prey are starting fires DELIBERATELY

Image removed by sender.

Birds of prey are suspected of deliberately starting fires to capture fleeing animals in the Australian Bush. No other animal apart from man has been recorded as ...



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