[PCA] ARTICLE: Using indigenous and local knowledge to explore intentional fire-spreading by “firehawk” raptors in Northern Australia and implications for land management and restoration

De Angelis, Patricia patricia_deangelis at fws.gov
Mon Feb 12 15:17:50 CST 2018

Had to share this amazing article that explores and documents traditional
knowledge around a phenomenon where several species of Northern Australian
raptors intentionally spread fire who then prey upon the critters fleeing
the flame. The article describes using ethnological information and
workshops to better inform and address this fire-foraging behavior in land
management and restoration.

Intentional Fire-Spreading by “Firehawk” Raptors in Northern Australia
Bonta et al. 2017
Journal of Ethnobiology 37(4):700-718.

*We document Indigenous Ecological Knowledge and non-Indigenous
observations of intentional fire-spreading by the fire-foraging raptors
Black Kite (*Milvus migrans*), Whistling Kite (*Haliastur sphenurus*), and
Brown Falcon (*Falco berigora*) in tropical Australian savannas. Observers
report both solo and cooperative attempts, often successful, to spread
wildfires intentionally via single-occasion or repeated transport of
burning sticks in talons or beaks. This behavior, often represented in
sacred ceremonies, is widely known to local people in the Northern
Territory, where we carried out ethno-ornithological research from 2011 to
2017; it was also reported to us from Western Australia and Queensland.
Though Aboriginal rangers and others who deal with bushfires take into
account the risks posed by raptors that cause controlled burns to jump
across firebreaks, official skepticism about the reality of avian
fire-spreading hampers effective planning for landscape management and
restoration. Via ethno-ornithological workshops and controlled field
experiments with land managers, our collaborative research aims to situate
fire-spreading as an important factor in fire management and fire ecology.
In a broader sense, better understanding of avian fire-spreading, both in
Australia and, potentially, elsewhere, can contribute to theories about the
evolution of tropical savannas and the origins of human fire use*.

Full article: http://www.bioone.org/doi/10.2993/0278-0771-37.4.700
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