Jonathan Jones: Birds that Steal Fire

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Many Aboriginal creation stories across Australia will tell you that birds are connected to the spreading of fire. Often cheeky birds would steal fire and accidentally drop it as they fled, inadvertently gifting it to everyone.

It has long been known, and witnessed, that many birds of prey are attracted to fire as they can easily catch animals, insects and reptiles as they flee from the fire.

Recent research has confirmed Aboriginal stories, showing that the black kite (Milvus migrans) and brown falcon (Falco berigora) in Central and Northern Australia actively harvest fire, picking up burning sticks and twigs to drop them and further the fire front.


Each week Jonathan Jones shares stories of native Australian birds, touching on their importance, the issues they face and what we can learn from them. Jones' upcoming artwork for the 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art requires thousands of native Australian bird feathers, which he needs your help to find.

Image: Birds circle a bushfire in Kakadu National Park (Getty Images). Find out more via Radio National