Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Thanks to Curiosity Stream for sponsoring this episode of SciShow! To learn more, go

  • to CuriosityStream.com/SciShow.

  • [ ♪INTRO ]

  • It's no secret that birds can be pretty smart.

  • You've probably heard of birds using tools or solving puzzlesbut in Australia, they

  • take things to the next level.

  • There, some birds are said to intentionally start firesmaking them the only animals

  • besides humans known to do that!

  • Most animals don't like being near fire. The standard instinct around flames is to

  • drop what you're doing and run.

  • But some birds of prey do just the opposite. If they spot a wildfire, they'll actually

  • fly towards it.

  • They've figured out that fire causes little critters to panic and flee, making them easy targets.

  • As long as the birds are careful not to get burned, a fire can mean an easy meal.

  • This incredible behavior is called fire foraging and it's been seen in predatory birds around the world.

  • But in Australian tropical savannas, some birds seem to take this strategy a step further.

  • They're known as firehawks because they're said to fly into active fires, carry away

  • a burning stick in their beak or talons, and then drop it into dry brush to start a totally new fire!

  • There's a lot we don't know about this avian arson. It's never been reliably captured

  • on photo or video, but the stories trace back generations.

  • Around the world, there are human cultures that have lived alongside native wildlife

  • for hundreds or thousands of years. And these cultures can be a valuable source of what's

  • called indigenous ecological knowledge.

  • And a 2017 study set out to collect this local knowledge.

  • Most stories identify three species as the arsonists: black kites, whistling kites, and

  • brown falcons, though there may be other birds that do it, too.

  • And the team found that at least 12 different ethnic Aboriginal groups reported first-hand

  • knowledge of fire-spreading in these birds. They're even in some of their religious ceremonies.

  • One account goes as far as to suggest that early Aboriginal people may have learned the

  • trick of fire-foraging by watching the birds!

  • The study also collected observations from non-Aboriginal people, including modern-day firefighters.

  • As you can imagine, birds that can start fires could be a real pain if you're job is to

  • control blazes, so local firefighters are often on the lookout for the birds.

  • One firefighter reported an instance where he spent an afternoon putting out seven different

  • fires started by kites!

  • And another witnessed a group of birds start a fire that burned so out of control that

  • it damaged a local cattle station.

  • In total, the study found accounts of fire-spreading from West Australia, Queensland, and the Northern

  • Territory — a total area of thousands of square kilometers.

  • So it may not be video footage, but it's pretty comprehensive ethno-ornithological

  • evidencethat is, cultural knowledge of birds.

  • But the behavior still hasn't been scientifically observed and documented, so the researchers

  • aren't done yet.

  • They plan to conduct more interviews, set up field experiments, and equip local rangers

  • with the tools to catch the birds in the act.

  • All that will hopefully reveal how often the birds start fires and how firefighters can

  • best plan around the behavior.

  • And, it may even help researchers figure out how they learned to do it in the first place!

  • Everything we currently know about firehawks comes from people paying attention to nature.

  • Their inquisitiveness allowed them to make remarkable observations of these incredible birds.

  • And, just imagine what you could learn if you indulged your curiosity a little more.

  • If you're looking for a place to start, you might want to consider Curiosity Stream.

  • CuriosityStream is a subscription streaming service full of documentaries and nonfiction

  • titles, so you can indulge your curiosity about pretty much everything.

  • For example,If you want to learn more about how harnessing fire altered humanity, you

  • could watch their original series The History of Food.

  • It takes you from the invention of cooking through the industrialization of the food

  • industry, and even peeks ahead at what might lie in the future.

  • And you can watch it plus any of their other 2400-plus titles for less than three dollars

  • per month. All you have to do is head on over to curiositystream.com/scishow to subscribe.

  • If you use the promo code 'scishow', you'll even get your first 31 days for free!

  • [ ♪OUTRO ]

Thanks to Curiosity Stream for sponsoring this episode of SciShow! To learn more, go

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B1 fire aboriginal curiosity curiosity stream foraging knowledge

Firehawks: Nature's Arsonists

  • 2 0
    林宜悉 posted on 2020/03/30
Video vocabulary