Until recently we smugly thought that humans were the only tool-making species. Then we found that chimpanzees, dolphins, crows and even parrots use tools. Now two scientific conferences have heard evidence that some Australian birds have learned to use fire, picking up smoldering sticks and dropping them in unburnt territory.
|Black kites are one of the birds that get close to fire fronts to catch fleeing animals. Bob Gosford|
Journalist Bob Gosford explains that the activity makes evolutionary sense because fires provide both species with a major food source. “Reptiles, frogs and insects rush out from the fire, and there are birds that wait in front, right at the foot of the fire, waiting to catch them,” Gosford said. Small fires often attract so many birds that there is insufficient fleeing prey for all, so a bird that was being beaten to its lunch might benefit from starting a new fire with less competition.