June, 2018

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The trouble with shit-hawks – the firespreading raptors of northern Australia

, Jun 15, 2018

A post that looks at our research into firespreading raptors in the Top End of Australia ... and beyond.
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Singing Wardaman Country, one Gouldian Finch at a time.

, Mar 15, 2018

This is a re-post of an article first published in the February 2018 edition of Land Rights News (Northern Edition) by the Northern Land Council. Birds are closely connected to Wardaman culture. Many Wardaman dances have been adapted from bird movements and much Wardaman rock art depicts birds.

Firehawks: avian pyromaniacs may have used fire before humans

, Jan 31, 2018

This has major ramifications for land use and conservation across Australia's northern savannahs and potentially beyond. Changed fire regimes by Europeans from those practiced for millennia by Aboriginal people wrought dramatic changes on the Australian landscape, a factor which imperilled (and continues to imperil) the existence of many native species. How do we account for birds as another potential fire vector?
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“Intentional Fire-Spreading by “Firehawk” Raptors in Northern Australia,” Bonta et al. Journal of Ethnobiology, 37(4) (abstract)

, Dec 20, 2017

In a broader sense, better understanding of avian fire-spreading, both in Australia and, potentially, elsewhere, can contribute to theories about the evolution of tropical savannas and the origins of human fire use.
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“Birds in culture and context—Ethnoornithology in application and theory”—abstracts from an ethnoornithology symposium, 2007

, Nov 21, 2017

Following are the abstracts of papers and posters presented at the recent Ethnoornithology Symposium, entitled “Birds in culture and context – Ethnoornithology in application and theory“, held during the 30th Society of Ethnobiology conference at the University of  California, Berkeley from 28 to 31st March 2007. It was a great day, with a quantity and quality of papers […]
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Return of the Storm-bird – the Channel-billed Cuckoo comes south for the summer

, Nov 19, 2017

I've been very interested in cuckoos generally—and Channel-billed Cuckoos in particular—for a few years, especially in relation to the knowledge that Aboriginal language groups here in the Northern Territory and beyond have about them. I'd love to hear any information that groups outside of the areas discussed in the post may have—feel free to drop me a line or post a comment.

Call for Papers: ‘Indigenous land and sea management in Australia and beyond’ session at CHAGS 12

, Nov 01, 2017

Themes for this session and discussion could include the importance of and development of cultural maintenance activities; issues related to sites and objects of sacred significance and knowledge; the protection, application and moderation of intercultural scientific knowledge; practical issues including funding and managing relationships between governments at local, state and federal levels; the benefits—or not—of working with NGOs and reflections on interactions between cultural practitioners from different local, regional and national areas.

Word of the week: kahmudngalalahminj (Dalabon)

, Oct 29, 2017

The ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (CoEDL) is investigating language as a diverse, dynamic and evolving organism that interacts with our perceptual processes in ingenious ways.
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Fire hawk stories feature at Barrapunta bird workshop

, Oct 29, 2017

The workshop allowed for clarification of the rather confusing overlap of three bird names,  karrkkanj, ngalmirlangmirlang and wunwunbu. Karrkkanj, it turns out, is a term for the Black Kite but can also be applied to two other raptor species, the Peregrine Falcon and the Brown Falcon.
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Call For Papers: ‘Ethno-ornithology: advances in collaborative research’ session at CHAGS 12

, Oct 29, 2017

We welcome theoretical and speculative papers exploring the significance of bodies of emerging literature (e.g. honeyguides, fire-following raptors) as discussed and understood by groups of collaborators. We favor co-authorship with Indigenous researchers and participation of Indigenous collaborators in this session.
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Talking Birds and Fire at the Barrapunta Bird Workshop, Arnhem Land, May 2017

, Oct 25, 2017

Karrkkanj is a term for the Black Kite but can also be applied to two other raptor species, the Peregrine Falcon and the Brown Falcon, Professor Evans explains. The Peregrine Falcon can also be known more specifically as ngalmirlangmirlang and the Brown Falcon as wunwunbu; these are said to be husband and wife. Karrkkanj is also ritually significant as the one who founded the Lorrkkon mortuary cycle.
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Independence day for the Mimal Rangers of Arnhem Land!

, Oct 25, 2017

Wednesday October 25 marks a new era for Indigenous landowners and managers as Mimal Land Management Aboriginal Corporation celebrates its independence. Mimal has been on a long journey to independence since the inception of Mimal Rangers almost 20 years ago.
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Why the chicken crossed the road. And how.

, Jan 07, 2017

On Chickens: Chickens have the capacity to reason and make logical inferences. For example, chickens are capable of simple forms of transitive inference, a capability that humans develop at approximately the age of seven
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Bird of the Week: Willy Wagtail – “where’s my dinner Mum?”

, Jan 02, 2017

The local pair of Willy Wagtails have taken advantage of the great season we are having in the centre this year and so far have raised two clutches, and I'll expect that, as prime examples of avian opportunism in the desert, they may raise another couple yet in this season.
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Bug of the Week: Termites – the rise and fall of the alate kings and queens

, Dec 22, 2016

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Northern Australian and Central Desert languages have numerous words for insects that are eaten, used as medicine, or that indicate important phenomena in the immediate environment: Aung Si & Myfany Turpin, 2015.
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‘Troublemakers for fire’ – Raptors spreading fire in Australian savanna woodlands

, Oct 01, 2016

Fire provides the opportunity for pyrophilic behaviour by some birds. Brown Falcons perch at the fire-front waiting for grasshoppers, frogs, snakes, lizards and small mammals. Whistling Kites and particularly Black Kites, Milvus migrans, spectacularly hawk around the curtain of flame, preying on grasshopper, cockroaches and other small fleeing animals. Local Aboriginal people believe that Brown Falcons and Black Kites set fires by carrying burning sticks to new locations and drop them into dry grass on unburnt grounds.
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What was the first name for grasswrens?

, Aug 15, 2016

In Pitjantjatjara country we know that the local name for Rhipidura leucophrys is tjintir-tjintirpa. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the scientific name, if you’re musically inclined and have an ear for Australian bird songs, you might recognise tjintir-tjintirpa as an onomatopoeic rendition of the ratcheting call of the Willie Wagtail.
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RIEL Seminar – Brown Falcon and Black Kite as propagators of fire in the Australian savanna

, Aug 12, 2016

Anecdotal historical reports from qualified observers support the hypothesis that this is a hitherto-undocumented tool-using behavior that, if verified to satisfy the standards of Western ecologists, will have important ramifications for understanding pyrophytic landscape evolution as well as human-bird relationships.
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Tool use in birds – on fishing Herons and Black Kites

, Jun 26, 2016

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"We think it is incredible this bird thought out the whole operation from catching a crab to converting into a bigger prey of a fish--and resisted the temptation to just eat the crab," Suzanne Hills and Chris Cromey.
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Bird of the Week: Sandhill Crane Grus canadensis

, Nov 11, 2015

En-route back to Mojave from Sacramento last Sunday I stopped in at the Merced National Wildlife Reserve, one of a chain of wildlife reserves throughout the extensive agricultural region of the Central Valley.