Meet the Firehawk Raptor, Nature’s Very Own Arsonist

Photo Credit: Bob Gosford

Legend has it that man got the gift of fire from the gods thanks to Prometheus, who stole embers from the sacred fire of Mount Olympus to gift to mortals. As punishment for his transgression, Zeus condemned Prometheus to be chained to a rock for eternity, where a giant eagle would peck out his liver every day (it grew back overnight, cause he was immortal).

Perhaps the eagle picked up a trick or two in all that time with Prometheus, because scientists have observed at least three types of birds, all birds of prey, purposefully setting fires to the land.

In 2017, researchers for the very first time published officially documented incidents of whistling kites, brown falcons, and black kites all setting fires intentionally. Not shockingly, all three birds are from Australia, where animals doing batshit insane things is basically the national trademark.

Photo Credit: Bob Gosford

Whenever a fire sparks up in the plains or forests, these birds (collectively referred to as “firehawk raptors”) start gathering burning branches. Once collected, they fly to an area that isn’t on fire and light it up.

The resulting fires lead to the evacuation of hundreds of rodents and reptiles from the area, all of which are easy pickings for the firehawk raptors circling above.

Anecdotal accounts of birds starting fires have been circulated within the Aboriginal community for a long, long time, but this research represents the first scientific study of the phenomenon. Some people even theorize that it might actually have been birds that played the mythical role of Prometheus.

h/t: Curiosity

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