back to article If Australian animals don't poison you or eat you, they'll BURN DOWN YOUR HOUSE

Already replete with sharks, crocodiles, snakes and poisonous jellyfish galore, Australia may also be home to arsonist birds that spread fire so they can feed on animals as they flee. The belief that birds like the Whistling Kite, Black Kite and Brown Falcon spread grass fires goes back so far that it's commemorated in …

Anonymous Coward

Re: Pigeons on trains

> Only it wasn't a lone pigeon but a sizeable number. ~12 or so sauntered into the carriage, some parked themselves, some had a sniff about for food scraps; The whole flock stayed on for a couple of stops and waited by the door & exited at "their" station.

I think you'll find those were IBM executives. Don't blame you for making the mistake though, as it can be hard to tell the difference between them and other bird brained species.

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Picking up burning/smoldering twigs

Would that be an African Kite or could a European Kite do it too if the twig is small enough?

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Re: Picking up burning/smoldering twigs

The Red Kites currently recolonization the UK have 5-6' wingspans (hard to appreciate when you see them at a distance) so I imagine that theoretically, yes they could.

They do look fabulous, I must say.

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Re: Picking up burning/smoldering twigs

@Tom Paine

"The Red Kites currently recolonization the UK have 5-6' wingspans (hard to appreciate when you see them at a distance) so I imagine that theoretically, yes they could.

They do look fabulous, I must say.

Dunno about REcolonization - we've never totally lost them round here, but numbers have been growing. And they are indeed fabulous - I often see them from my office window, gliding over the fields next door, looking for something small and furry that is about to make its last squeek.

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Re: Picking up burning/smoldering twigs

Conspiracy theory time:

The Russians (or Chinese or Norks or Democrats) have introduced a few Ozzie kites into California, where they have taught the skill of burning-branch-dropping to the local native Bald Eagles, indoctrinating them in their evil ideology at the same time, so that the once proud symbol of USia has now been polluted by the taint of commieness (and probably turned them all gay at the same time - it's the kind of thing those billionaire ruskie commies would do)

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Re: Picking up burning/smoldering twigs

Even a common UK rook or magpie could spread fires, except they are busy eating road kill.

Awesome seeing a magpie dive bomb an adult bluetit on the feeder and fly off with it.

Raptors have a spread finger effect on end of wings. Look at a Raven, Magpie, Rook, Hoodie/carrion crow flying. They are mini-raptors.

The small birds are more freaked out by magpies than Rooks. They all vanish from garden if a magpie alights on the shed. Mostly they ignore rooks, though ours have learned how to use the peanut feeder and then others leave. I think they only bother with grain in summer or peanuts in feeder in winter when they run out of insects and roadkill.

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Re: Picking up burning/smoldering twigs

"The Russians (or Chinese or Norks or Democrats) have introduced a few Ozzie kites into California, where they have taught the skill of burning-branch-dropping to the local native Bald Eagles,"

The Bald Eagle is a pure capitalist. So the Republicans have taught it to start fires and burn out the poor folk, opening up the land oil drilling.

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Coat

Re: Picking up burning/smoldering twigs

Would that be an African Kite or could a European Kite do it too if the twig is small enough?

But what is the airspeed of an unladen Kite?

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Flame

At least they haven't learned about napalm.... yet.

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Mushroom

It's Australia - give them time....

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It'll turn out that Wagner made a little-known trip to Australia - and in fact plagarised the Ride of the Valkyrie from birdsong that he heard...

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@ I ain't Spartacus

Dear Mr. S., the little woodbird makes his/her performance in Richard Wagner's opera Siegfried, not in Die Walküre.

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Anonymous Coward

I doubt this, if the birds are present chasing prey it's not much of a stretch of the imagination for them to go from omen to cause, which is why they want non-religious (superstitious) sightings.

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Yes and no.

There are both mistakes made on correlation and causation in both directions. Direct observation is on that is needed.

However, many if not all animals are adaptive and will learn. The error is in thinking they will not learn.

If they can pick up burning/smouldering twigs they will. They will then try many different things with them, perhaps even building their nests in error. Using them to hunt would be an additional step in the learning behaviour, but not an impossibility (see how many insects and crustaceans even use materials as lures/decoration to their habitat/body/hunting).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Yes and no.

Of course and I get that, I just think that a bird picking up something either on fire or smouldering is too great a leap because the first time it gets it wrong and hurts itself it won't keep trying and how many times would it need to try for it to stick. There is also the rational behind it, I think it's a great leap for a bird to think "there's a fire I go hunt" to "there's a fire I move it very carefully so I can hunt more". I'm not saying it's impossible and time will tell with more study.

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Re: Yes and no.

It's not impossible by a long stretch. Some birds are recorded and judged as having mental capacities similar to a 6-7 year old human child. If you can't remember what you did at such an age, any parent of such a child will be able to tell you the exact amount of trouble and deviousness that such a child can get up to.

For example, many such birds are capable of context based communication, social restraint and manipulation and a sense of humour. The more adaptable the birds species is the more they are likely to have a high intelligence.

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Facepalm

Re: Yes and no.

"I just think that a bird picking up something either on fire or smouldering is too great a leap because the first time it gets it wrong and hurts itself it won't keep trying"

Which is why no animal ever learned to use fire, and those poor hairless apes are left shivering in the cold every winter.

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Re: Yes and no.

there is clearly a problem with the way we are taught to view the world and collectively we are just starting to realise that we need to re evaluate what we have been taught rather than just accepting it.

We have for too long dismissed anecdotal information in favour of scientific hearsay & interpretation driven by people with undisclosed agendas.

the NHS springs to mind

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Re: Yes and no.

"We have for too long dismissed anecdotal information in favour of scientific hearsay & interpretation driven by people with undisclosed agendas."
May be true in some fields. When I was involved in agricultural research, a fellow told me that every research project he had been involved with started out as an anecdote from a farmer.

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Re: Yes and no.

Sense of humour? You're having a laugh!

But seriously, what's the evidence for that?

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Joke

New hit song for Oz?

I hope your chooks turn into firebirds and burn your dunny down

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G2

ok.. so birds finally invented fire.

wake me up when they invent space travel, in a few [million] years.

or a black monolith with the dimensions 1 : 4 : 9

(1 : 4 : 9 : 16 : 25 : 36 ....)

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Do they do it accidentally or deliberately?

Why do we have such difficulty in giving other living things credibility for an iota of intelligence?

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Joke

Re: Do they do it accidentally or deliberately?

Because we see none in the human race?

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Re: Do they do it accidentally or deliberately?

@technical ben

I don't understand why you used the joke icon :-(

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Angel

Re: Do they do it accidentally or deliberately?

"Why do we have such difficulty in giving other living things credibility for an iota of intelligence?"

Good question! There are a few influences at work here. The greatest blame belongs to Religion, which usually states that we are divine creations in the image of the gods, and animals are dumb vermin-ridden beasts. It's very important for religions to claim humans are separate and special, so there's a default setting of "animals are dumb automatons, we're smart thinking beings not like them".

I lay a fair bit of blame on psychology, ethology and such for perpetuating this attitude. They reflexively dismiss as "anthropomorphizing" any suggestion that an animal might be doing anything we do, or worse, for the same reasons. When it was assumed that humans are a Special Creation that kinda made sense, but not since we know that we're all related.

The newness of Science plays a part as well. When we started looking for natural explanations for the universe (and us), there was a tendency to treat any discovery as the Complete Answer. We're finding out now that most things are far more complex than that first answer we found. That's OK, it's the scientific method at work, moving ever closer to the final truth.

I don't make any distinction between genus Homo and our fellow critters. We're all related from the same origins, and we for sure can share behaviors and motivations. Throw out the preconceptions and you'll see all kinds of animals doing amazing things that nobody much notices or gives them credit for.

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Re: Do they do it accidentally or deliberately?

I recall a story doing the rounds about birds learning to open milk bottles- in the days of glass milk bottles delivered to your doorstep.

Now we have flying raptors ( living dinosaurs...) mastering fire, and on our warming planet, probably gearing up to increase in size by an order of magnitude - large enough to make the flying lasershark nightmare an inevitable reality....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Do they do it accidentally or deliberately?

Hmmm, mastering fire and stealing milk... can anyone report any teabags missing?

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Re: Do they do it accidentally or deliberately?

Because it is too easy to attribute intelligence where there is none. People have been fooled by behaviour that was highly complex but instinctive. People have even been fooled by "Eliza"-style programs, where we know exactly how unintelligent they are. People will even suppose there is intelligence and personality behind natural phenomena like lightning strikes. Scientists need to be careful to avoid such projection.

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Re: Do they do it accidentally or deliberately?

There is a seagull (of some kind) that steals bags of crisps from the shops instead of waiting for kids to drop them.

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Australian wildlife

Already replete with sharks, crocodiles, snakes and poisonous jellyfish galore

Spiders! You forgot the spiders!

And some of the Sheep, and the Roos, and the Drop Bears...

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Mushroom

Re: Australian wildlife

Remember kids, if the animal is not trying to kill you, it's not a native to Australia.

Mushroom cloud because it's only a matter of time before it they figure out fuel-air explosives

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Re: Australian wildlife

Drat, you got here before me. I was going to say spiders. Another of my reasons for not putting the place on my dream holiday list.

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Joke

Re: Australian wildlife

come come now, no one has died from a spider bite for about 50 years. Now the snakes well thats different, but there mostly out in the west or the bush. And the sharks, well they mainly take surfers. And the jellyfish are mainly in the north, same with the crocs. And well the drop bears can be a problem in the south east... hmmm... We do have some really nice hotels you can stay in... there's usually nothing too dangerous in those. Well mostly...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Australian wildlife

You missed off dingoes.

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Re: Australian wildlife

You forgot the croccadillo-pigs, when I was touring there was a thing going round trying to get stupid European tourists to believe them. :) I of course resisted.

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Re: Australian wildlife

The spiders are the reason for the fires in the first place. Only way to make sure they are well and truly dead. Burn everything in a 100mile radius.

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Re: Australian wildlife

How could you leave out the cassowary? The closest thing alive today to a velociraptor.

Seriously, Australia - you’re terrifying.

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Re: Australian wildlife

How could you leave out the cassowary? The closest thing alive today to a velociraptor.

Well - you have to remember that birds are just dinosaurs with better PR..

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Re: Australian wildlife

"Spiders! You forgot the spiders!"
That's because the spiders are from Mars...

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Re: Australian wildlife

And the water buffalo.

Magpies during nesting season.

The sun, it really wants to kill you, boil you alive.

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Re: Australian wildlife

The most dangerous animals in Australia: include cows, horses, kangaroos, wasps & bees, and dogs. Right up the top. The cows and horses are imports and with kangaroos are mostly dangerous because you hit them when you are driving if they escape onto the roads (although horse-riding is a very dangerous sport), while the wasps & bees are European imports as our local wasps and bees don't sting. The dogs are pets, with the most dangerous of them being the pit bull terrier, an English breed. It is far more scary to go to England with all those dogs, bees and wasps (not to mention scary creatures like cows and horses) than Australia. Snakes are very shy and do not stay in hotel rooms and hang around city streets--they prefer long grass and hollow logs and will run away from an approaching human if they can, crocodiles only live in the top tenth of the continent and so you just be careful when going to croc infested areas, sharks prefer to keep away from shallow waters and NEVER walk down city streets or even in the in the bush for that matter. Death by spider bites is extremely rare and drop bears do not exist--Aussies just are amused about tourists terrors of Australian animals so they make up fantasy ones to scare tourists.

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Re: Australian wildlife

"The most dangerous animals in Australia: include cows, horses, kangaroos, wasps & bees, and dogs."
The most dangerous animals in Australia are humans. Death by suicide is more common than dying caused by other humans' actions, so I respectfully suggest avoiding yourself is safest.

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@ProBirdRights

https://twitter.com/ProBirdRights/status/949409091117461505

"#NationalBirdDay activitity: go outside find a birds. swear allegiance to them. your loyalty will be remember come the birdtimes."

I THOUGHT IT WAS A JOKE

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Obligatory Ted) Hughes reference...

... meanwhile British sparrowhawks continue to use nuclear powered lasers with sufficient precision to avoid collateral ignition

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TRT
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IT Angle

So basically...

A vulture will pick up something smouldering and then run with it, spreading wildfires, just for the sake of a tasty morsel?

And where's the IT angle to that, then?

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Re: So basically...

Vulture? Look at the masthead of El Reg?

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Re: So basically...

@ Nick Ryan

That Wooshing sound is TRT's point missing you completely...

He was being sarcastic, and is well aware of what the vulture signifies.

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TRT
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Re: He was being sarcastic

More sardonic, I think.

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Re: He was being sarcastic

I'm glad you didn't go full-on acerbic, or caustic...

Matron, there's a large Thesaurus eating the Japonicas!

Wibble!

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