The Firebird Is NOT a Myth [Via Nina Reznick]

Image: Birds circle a bushfire in Kakadu National Park (Getty Images)

Columnist and bird researcher Bob Gosford has a theory: Australian birds of prey are not only attracted to fire, but help spread it by picking up burning sticks. It sounds crazy, but he's hitting the road in the NT to verify tales told by Indigenous locals. Matthew Crawford reports.

Could flocks of birds be picking up burning sticks and dropping them on unburned ground in order to spread fire?

It sounds like a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock film, but  lawyer, columnist and self-starting ornithologist  Bob Gosford has collated reports from Africa, India and Central America and he's confident this might be 'a thing'.

However, he makes an admission: 'I need help!'

Australian birds of prey, specifically black kites and brown falcons, are attracted to fire. They follow the fire front, picking out fleeing reptiles, insects and small birds; and feasting on pre-cooked meals.

Facing a lack of photographic or video evidence to date, Gosford has tasked himself with collecting eyewitness accounts and perhaps even first-hand confirmation of this 'ornithogenic fire'.

In the meantime, however, Gosford is calling on the public to contribute information about othr possible sightings. His message to anyone who photographs or videos a kite or falcon with a fire stick is: 'Get in touch with me!'

Gosford points out that Australia currently has only two recognised sources of fire—human activity and lightning.

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