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Old 13th January 2018, 02:22 PM   #1
Ron Swanson
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So: Many experts now agree ... some birds use fire as a weapon.

Australian birds weaponize fire.

Some experts now agree, with old tales aboriginal people have told for centuries, ... that certain birds of prey actually USE fire as a weapon, to frighten up food to prey upon.

Raptors, including the whistling kite, are said to have been seen ... intentionally spreading grass fires in northern Australia, by caring burning sticks to new areas of dry grass and dropping them.

The reason: To flush out prey and feast!

http://nationalpost.com/news/world/a...eaponized-fire
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Old 13th January 2018, 03:03 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Yeggster View Post
Australian birds weaponize fire.

Some experts now agree, with old tales aboriginal people have told for centuries, ... that certain birds of prey actually USE fire as a weapon, to frighten up food to prey upon.

Raptors, including the whistling kite, are said to have been seen ... intentionally spreading grass fires in northern Australia, by caring burning sticks to new areas of dry grass and dropping them.

The reason: To flush out prey and feast!

http://nationalpost.com/news/world/a...eaponized-fire
So, will the police start arresting them for arson????? And (more seriously) could that be related to grass fires in the past that were thought to be arson/human cause??
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Old 13th January 2018, 03:04 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by fuelair View Post
So, will the police start arresting them for arson????? And (more seriously) could that be related to grass fires in the past that were thought to be arson/human cause??
I'm guessing no.

BUT YES to the second one ... that seems very likely!
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Old 13th January 2018, 07:06 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Yeggster View Post
Australian birds weaponize fire.

Some experts now agree, with old tales aboriginal people have told for centuries, ... that certain birds of prey actually USE fire as a weapon, to frighten up food to prey upon.

Raptors, including the whistling kite, are said to have been seen ... intentionally spreading grass fires in northern Australia, by caring burning sticks to new areas of dry grass and dropping them.

The reason: To flush out prey and feast!

http://nationalpost.com/news/world/a...eaponized-fire
Or, it could be that these raptors, when pouncing on a charred and shocked goanna behind the fire line, also picks up some burning twigs with it. While flying away with dinner, it adjusts its grip so the goanna isn’t dropped, but the burning twig giving it discomfort is.

Of course if you are an eye witness to behaviour that appears to support your religious beliefs or merely your knowledge of this belief, you might not pay that much attention to the details. Typical of confirmation bias.

And that is all they have at the moment. Religious belief and hearsay evidence from believers and those that know of the belief.

I’m not dismissing it out of hand, but even the researcher has skin in the game to “prove” a religious belief is factual, so I remain fairly sceptical of this “truth”.
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Old 13th January 2018, 08:02 PM   #5
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Fascinating.
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Old 13th January 2018, 08:13 PM   #6
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I heard this reported. Birds can do fantastic things, like detect breast cancers from X-rays far better than humans, but I will need to see more and better evidence than this.

Don't get me wrong, I would love it to be true, just to add to our collection of sharks, crocodiles, spiders, snakes and drop bears. Tourism deterrence is a national priority.
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Old 13th January 2018, 08:33 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by lionking View Post
I heard this reported. Birds can do fantastic things, like detect breast cancers from X-rays far better than humans, but I will need to see more and better evidence than this.

Don't get me wrong, I would love it to be true, just to add to our collection of sharks, crocodiles, spiders, snakes and drop bears. Tourism deterrence is a national priority.
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Old 13th January 2018, 09:31 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by lionking View Post
I heard this reported. Birds can do fantastic things, like detect breast cancers from X-rays far better than humans, but I will need to see more and better evidence than this.

Don't get me wrong, I would love it to be true, just to add to our collection of sharks, crocodiles, spiders, snakes and drop bears. Tourism deterrence is a national priority.
Hey dont be speciest!

You forgot the jellyfish. octopuses (octopi??), dingoes, mosquitoes, then there are the many plants that are out to get you too.
Thats assuming the land itself doesnt get you with sandtraps, mud, dust that swallows trucks, and sandy beaches that try to kill you in the middle of the night in your sleep

SINKHOLECARAVAN

major-sinkhole-swallows-vehicles-on-qld-coast
(this link shows the sheer size of the final hole)

If you find a copy of an Ozzie TV show called Towies, they actually had two of their employees camping there, and were called in to try and retrieve some of the 4x4,s and caravans that got swallowed, they had part of a show covering their attempts, also had footage from the camp at the time it happened


So be warned tourists, EVERYTHING in Oz is out to get ya!!!!
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Old 13th January 2018, 10:27 PM   #9
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And you left out the terrestrial leeches that carry the parasite for River Blindness.
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Old 13th January 2018, 11:45 PM   #10
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Old 14th January 2018, 12:26 AM   #11
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Cool, birds are smart.
Unlikely but not impossible, wonder if it's real.

Originally Posted by Dabop View Post
So be warned tourists, EVERYTHING in Oz is out to get ya!!!!
Really?

Thought it was a well known fact that Australia only actively tries to kill Ausies.
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Old 14th January 2018, 01:55 AM   #12
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Observation:

Quote:
Bob White, a firefighter in the Northern Territory saw a small group of raptors, likely black kites, “pick up numerous smouldering sticks and transport them ahead of a fire front, successfully helping the blaze spread up a small valley.”

Conclusion:

Quote:
Nathan Ferguson claims to have observed fire spreading about a dozen times in the Northern Territory since 2001. The long-time firefighter is adamant that the birds he’s observed — picking up twigs and starting new fires — were doing so on purpose.

Let's consider other possible explanations:
The article mentions that birds of prey - unlike most other animals that try to try go get away from fires - seem to be attracted to (outskirts of) fires because they can catch prey fleeing. That sounds very likely, and it's probably true. Birds of prey usually have very good long-distance eye sight, so it may simply be a question of noticing the fleeing prey rather than the fire.
What do birds also do? They pick up sticks, straws and feathers and sometimes even barbed wire. Why? Because they use this stuff for building nests. Where would they fly with these things? Into the fires or away from them? What happens when they notice that the sticks that they picked up are burning at one end? Yes, exactly: They drop them!

Over the years I've had a couple of agapornis personata parrots ('love birds'). I would let them out of their cage in the kitchen. (And, yes, I had to buy an awful lot of paper towels to clean up the mess.) Even if you don't give them boxes for the purpose, they try to build nests on top of cupboards instead. If they see a piece of paper, they will use their beaks to make long strips suited for the purpose of nest building. (We learned not to leave books or magazines on the kitchen counter! In nature, they probably do the same thing with leaves.) They may also use drinking straws left in glasses in the kitchen sink.

YouTube Video This video is not hosted by the ISF. The ISF can not be held responsible for the suitability or legality of this material. By clicking the link below you agree to view content from an external website.
I AGREE

We were cooking with gas, and a couple of times the parrots managed to put either the strips of paper or the drinking straws on fire. However, they seemed to be blissfully unaware of this, at first, but when they noticed, they would drop them.

Or - if I were as anthropomorphizing as the firefighter Nathan Ferguson - I might jump to the conclusion that they were actually trying to burn down the house!
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Old 14th January 2018, 02:07 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Dabop View Post
You forgot the jellyfish. octopuses (octopi??), dingoes, mosquitoes, then there are the many plants that are out to get you too.

The article about Australian arsonist aves has a link to an article about the ill-intended albeit ill-equipped dolphins!
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Old 14th January 2018, 03:21 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Yeggster View Post
Some experts now agree, with old tales aboriginal people have told for centuries, ... that certain birds of prey actually USE fire as a weapon, to frighten up food to prey upon.
It's funny, previously it would have been, "Meh, these people have only lived here for 40,000 years, what do they know?" Now it's, "Whoa, a white bloke has seen it happen therefore it's true!"
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Old 14th January 2018, 01:02 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by dann View Post
The article mentions that birds of prey - unlike most other animals that try to try go get away from fires - seem to be attracted to (outskirts of) fires because they can catch prey fleeing. That sounds very likely, and it's probably true. Birds of prey usually have very good long-distance eye sight, so it may simply be a question of noticing the fleeing prey rather than the fire.
What do birds also do? They pick up sticks, straws and feathers and sometimes even barbed wire. Why? Because they use this stuff for building nests. Where would they fly with these things? Into the fires or away from them? What happens when they notice that the sticks that they picked up are burning at one end? Yes, exactly: They drop them!mp to the conclusion that they were actually trying to burn down the house!
1. Birds build nests in the spring. In Australia, that is August - October. The bushfire season in Australia runs December - March, sometimes April. By that time, the nest is empty, the chicks have grown up and left.

2. In any case, why would a bird fly into burning a grass area to pick up sticks and take them to the non-burning grass area to build a nest, when there is ample supply of nesting materials in the non-burning grass area?

3. I have observed herring gulls and blackback seagulls in my local area picking up shellfish, usually pipis or sea-oysters, on the beach and flying a short distance to the sealed parking areas and dropping them. They aren't doing this for fun, they're trying to break the shellfish open so they can eat it. Birds picking up burning sticks to start fires is not much of a stretch from what I have observed with gulls and shellfish.
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Old 14th January 2018, 01:11 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Yeggster View Post
Australian birds weaponize fire.

Some experts now agree, with old tales aboriginal people have told for centuries, ... that certain birds of prey actually USE fire as a weapon, to frighten up food to prey upon.

Raptors, including the whistling kite, are said to have been seen ... intentionally spreading grass fires in northern Australia, by caring burning sticks to new areas of dry grass and dropping them.

The reason: To flush out prey and feast!

http://nationalpost.com/news/world/a...eaponized-fire
Maybe that's whats happening in California?
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Old 14th January 2018, 03:41 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by smartcooky View Post
1. Birds build nests in the spring. In Australia, that is August - October. The bushfire season in Australia runs December - March, sometimes April. By that time, the nest is empty, the chicks have grown up and left.

No problem, birds not only build nests but also maintain them all summer long, and sometimes they have to rebuild them when they are destroyed.

Quote:
2. In any case, why would a bird fly into burning a grass area to pick up sticks and take them to the non-burning grass area to build a nest, when there is ample supply of nesting materials in the non-burning grass area?

The article told you why, and I repeated its explanation: Birds of prey are attracted to fires because of their prey fleeing from them. That they pick up a stick to bring back is not what they came for, but if they see something that seems useful they may pick it up and bring it back - and drop it again if they decide otherwise.

Quote:
3. I have observed herring gulls and blackback seagulls in my local area picking up shellfish, usually pipis or sea-oysters, on the beach and flying a short distance to the sealed parking areas and dropping them. They aren't doing this for fun, they're trying to break the shellfish open so they can eat it. Birds picking up burning sticks to start fires is not much of a stretch from what I have observed with gulls and shellfish.

Yes, it's quite a stretch from what you've observed. One thing is knowing that things crack when dropped on a hard surface. It's something that a bird could discover by accident: dropping an oyster either by accident or because it proved too hard to open with the beak and discovering that now its juicy meat is suddenly accessible. A behaviorist would love to point out the very simple stimulus-response pattern. Instant reward.
Another thing is the experience that fires are accompagnied by fleeing animals so the next time there's smoke: expect food!

But the stretch comes when the bird is supposed to know not only that
1) Fire --> food,
but also:
2) Burning stick dropped in dry grass causes fire.
3) Must see to it that this fire spreads so I can dine on roasted mice tonight.

I'll go with Occam in this case, and I do so mainly because I've observed my love birds putting straws on fire when they accidentally got too close to the gas flames of the stove, taking off with them and dropping them when they noticed. Luckily they never managed to set fire to anything else, but if they had, it wouldn't have been deliberate. They didn't know what they were doing.
I see no reason to think that the Australian birds set fire to dry grass any more intentionally than careless teenagers who cause fires by dropping cigarette butts out of car windows when driving through dry areas. (But unlike the birds, the teenagers are actually able to do deliberately and sometimes do. Teenagers know what fire is, how it's made and how it spreads.)

And bonobos ...


PS You might also claim that squirrels deliberately plant trees!
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Old 14th January 2018, 04:27 PM   #18
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Bottom line: The study was a collection of 21 (I believe that was the number) retrospective anecdotes. There are no videos of the behavior so we can't easily evaluate alternative hypotheses.

Further research is necessary, and given the destructive wildfires in both Australia and the US, it's worth investing the resources to do the research.
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Old 14th January 2018, 05:21 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by dann View Post
No problem, birds not only build nests but also maintain them all summer long, and sometimes they have to rebuild them when they are destroyed.
This is rubbish.

While Whistling Kites use the same nest year after year, they do NOT maintain them all year. They add material annually at the beginning of the nesting season (this can result in the nest becoming very large). Kites, especially those found in northern Australia are nomadic, wandering thousands of kilometres from their nesting sites. They will not be maintaining a nest when they are nowhere near it, and in the dry season, not the nesting season (unless you are suggesting they fly thousands of kilometres throughout the year to take a few sticks to their nest?)

Originally Posted by dann View Post
Yes, it's quite a stretch from what you've observed. One thing is knowing that things crack when dropped on a hard surface. It's something that a bird could discover by accident: dropping an oyster either by accident or because it proved too hard to open with the beak and discovering that now its juicy meat is suddenly accessible. A behaviorist would love to point out the very simple stimulus-response pattern. Instant reward.
Interesting point of view

Pick up shellfish > fly to hard ground > drop shellfish > shellfish breaks > fly down to get food
Pick up burning twig > fly to grassy area> drop stick > fire starts > fly down to get prey

Not seeing much of a stretch there.

Originally Posted by dann View Post
And bonobos ...
Because bonobos have wings?

Originally Posted by dann View Post
PS You might also claim that squirrels deliberately plant trees!
A man of straw, and a clumsy one at that!


I'm not saying this is what is really happening, but I'm not dismissing out of hand like you are.
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Old 14th January 2018, 05:26 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post

Further research is necessary, and given the destructive wildfires in both Australia and the US, it's worth investing the resources to do the research.
Really? To what end if it turns out correct? We start a bird re-education program?

Birds singing in chorus :
We don't need no education
We don't need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Hey! Peoples! Leave us birds alone!
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Old 14th January 2018, 07:44 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Red Baron Farms View Post
Really? To what end if it turns out correct? We start a bird re-education program?..[/b][/i]
No it will just give idiot farmers yet another ignorant reason to shoot raptors indiscriminately.
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Old 14th January 2018, 07:52 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Cainkane1 View Post
Maybe that's whats happening in California?
It's the revenge of the California Condors. They weren't trying to catch fleeing prey, they wanted dead bodies to scavenge.
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Old 14th January 2018, 07:57 PM   #23
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Great feedback guys! .. Remember people have been observing and studying this for decades ... I'm with the experts (but JUST barely) (one issue is why aren't their HD videos) ???

... have to say I love the scepticism too! ...
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Old 14th January 2018, 08:22 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Red Baron Farms View Post
Really? To what end if it turns out correct? We start a bird re-education program?

Birds singing in chorus :
We don't need no education
We don't need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Hey! Peoples! Leave us birds alone!
That's not very imaginative of you.

It doesn't matter if it is purposeful hunting technique or accidental spread, though I do think the difference might have some use in knowing.

What matters is, if birds are contributing to wildfire spread, that knowledge needs to be incorporated into fire fighting techniques the same way one takes into account the wind spreading embers.
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Old 14th January 2018, 08:24 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by EHocking View Post
No it will just give idiot farmers yet another ignorant reason to shoot raptors indiscriminately.
All the more reason to sort fact from myth, because the myth already exists.
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Old 14th January 2018, 09:10 PM   #26
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So far, the evidence for this behavior is anecdotal. There are no photos or video yet.

Originally Posted by National Geographic
Though Gosford and his colleagues solicited photos and videos of the behavior, they haven’t yet received any usable footage. They hope to document the behavior in the field later this year, by closely studying a series of controlled burns administered by local firefighters.
https://news.nationalgeographic.com/...mals-australia


Originally Posted by LiveScience
From their reports, a behavioral pattern emerged:...

...purposely swiped burning sticks or grasses from smoldering vegetation — or even from human cooking fires — and then made off with the brands and dropped them into unburned areas to set them alight
Stealing fire from your campfire. Really?

https://www.livescience.com/61375-fi...g-raptors.html
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Old 14th January 2018, 10:44 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by William Parcher View Post
Also from your posted link

Quote:
"In the case of co-authors Nathan Ferguson's and Dick Eussen's accounts, they saw the behavior repeatedly and at close range, including failed attempts, but also successful attempts,"
If they are seen making repeated trips from the fire areas, carrying burning embers and then dropping them in the non-fire areas, it will be very difficult to write that off as accidental or nest-building!
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Old 14th January 2018, 11:12 PM   #28
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Lock'em up!
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Old 14th January 2018, 11:28 PM   #29
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Might want to bring some Rhinos to Australia.

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Old 14th January 2018, 11:58 PM   #30
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Growing up I had a Pied Crow.
We often had a big bowl of macadamia nuts, in the shell, on the kitchen table. The crow would sneak in, steal a nut, go outside and give it to our our dog.
Those nuts are hard, but a Dalmatian can crack them, sending shell shards flying everywhere. The crow always got the lion's share of the nut.
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Old 15th January 2018, 12:09 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by Cheetah View Post
Growing up I had a Pied Crow.
We often had a big bowl of macadamia nuts, in the shell, on the kitchen table. The crow would sneak in, steal a nut, go outside and give it to our our dog.
Those nuts are hard, but a Dalmatian can crack them, sending shell shards flying everywhere. The crow always got the lion's share of the nut.
OMG that is so fascinating. It totally tops the crows around here that would take filbert nuts high in the air and drop then on the parking lot blacktop where the nuts would break open.
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Old 15th January 2018, 12:55 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by EHocking View Post
.......Of course if you are an eye witness to behaviour that appears to support your religious beliefs or merely your knowledge of this belief, you might not pay that much attention to the details. Typical of confirmation bias..........
What is it about this supposed behaviour of birds which is a religious belief?
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Old 15th January 2018, 06:36 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by smartcooky View Post
If they are seen making repeated trips from the fire areas, carrying burning embers and then dropping them in the non-fire areas, it will be very difficult to write that off as accidental or nest-building!
No photos or videos taken by the researchers in spite of repeated observations. There's no reason to write it off as anything at all when there is not yet any evidence other than anecdote.

Science needs to be science.
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Old 15th January 2018, 09:26 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
Further research is necessary, and given the destructive wildfires in both Australia and the US, it's worth investing the resources to do the research.
Or we can just kill off all the birds and see if the wildfires stop.
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Old 15th January 2018, 10:47 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
OMG that is so fascinating. It totally tops the crows around here that would take filbert nuts high in the air and drop then on the parking lot blacktop where the nuts would break open.

My favorite is watching the crows down here placing acorns and horse chestnuts in the tire grooves on roads, then waiting for cars to drive over them, and walking out to pick up the now-accessible nutmeats.

Or even better, was when squirrels had learned to do the same thing. The crows would lurk up in the trees above while the squirrels dropped the nuts in the road, then swoop down to get the cracked nuts before the squirrels could.
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Old 15th January 2018, 10:58 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by William Parcher View Post
No photos or videos taken by the researchers in spite of repeated observations. There's no reason to write it off as anything at all when there is not yet any evidence other than anecdote.

Science needs to be science.
A lot of research relies on anecdotal evidence. This conclusion needs to be supported with additional evidence, but the study is a scientific study.
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Old 15th January 2018, 10:58 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by luchog View Post
My favorite is watching the crows down here placing acorns and horse chestnuts in the tire grooves on roads, then waiting for cars to drive over them, and walking out to pick up the now-accessible nutmeats.
they also placed the nuts at pedestrian crossings and waited patiently for the traffic to stop so they could safely trot out and eat
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Quote:
Or even better, was when squirrels had learned to do the same thing. The crows would lurk up in the trees above while the squirrels dropped the nuts in the road, then swoop down to get the cracked nuts before the squirrels could.
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Old 15th January 2018, 11:01 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by Segnosaur View Post
Or we can just kill off all the birds and see if the wildfires stop.
Suggests a lack of imagination about how one might use the knowledge birds can spread a wildfire when fighting a wildfire.

We know when the wind is blowing to look for embers to be flying and where they might end up. Knowing birds might be spreading the fire, one can plan where they might be likely to drop embers.
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Old 15th January 2018, 11:08 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
A lot of research relies on anecdotal evidence. This conclusion needs to be supported with additional evidence, but the study is a scientific study.
Science often does start as anecdotal observations but it has to proceed beyond that or else it remains something like folklore.

All that has happened here so far is that anecdotes have now been submitted to a scientific journal.
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Old 15th January 2018, 11:10 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by smartcooky View Post

Interesting point of view

Pick up shellfish > fly to hard ground > drop shellfish > shellfish breaks > fly down to get food
Pick up burning twig > fly to grassy area> drop stick > fire starts > fly down to get prey

Not seeing much of a stretch there.
Crows also use cars to crack nuts.

http://www.bbc.com/earth/storyoflife...-to-crack-nuts

Add that to their well documented tool use and why is this so shocking?

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/...-tools/499724/
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