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.
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.
If you like Australian raptors and a big sky there is no better place to get both at the same time than the Barkly Tablelands in the heartland of the Northern Territory.
Is our landscape one shaped by humans and weather forces or might other agents - like birds - be in part responsible for the spread of fire across our landscapes? There are more questions here than answers...so far.
Frankly it was a crappy morning that greeted me, and I battled through a very dreary Sunday morning in Alice. A photographer friend suggested going for a drive to see if we could find a break in the cloud cover anywhere - we couldn't...I'd had enough, so I started the trudge back to the car, when something flapped in a red gum over my shoulder, and I looked up to see two Grey Falcons studiously ignoring me - as is their regal right... what a bird!