As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Ornithologist seeks to prove theory NT desert hunting birds spread fire to flush out prey

Posted Thu at 7:17am

An ornithologist is out to find definitive proof on the theory Australian desert birds of prey intentionally spread fire to smoke out their unsuspecting targets.

Northern Territory lawyer-turned ornithologist Bob Gosford is determined to prove something he said Australian Aborigines have known about for centuries.

"Black kites and brown falcons come to these fronts because it is just literally a killing frenzy, it's a feeding frenzy, because out of these grasslands come small birds, lizards, insects, everything fleeing the front of the fire."

Mr Gosford has spent decades exploring the field of ethno-ornithology — the study of cultural bird knowledge.

"My interest was first piqued by a report in a book published in 1964 by an Aboriginal man called Phillip Roberts in the Roper River area in the Northern Territory, that gave an account of a thing that he'd seen in the bush, a bird picking up a stick from a fire front and carrying it and dropping it on to unburnt grass."

When I talked to Aboriginal people about it later, they said 'well that's what the birds do.'
Bob Gosford, ornithologist

Mr Gosford said he began delving deeper into Aboriginal understandings of birds of prey, but could not find any evidence or link between traditional knowledge and mainstream ornithology literature.

So, he decided he would work to bridge that gap.

"I've spent the last 10 years and more working in this field of ethno-ornithology, in Australia, in New Zealand, with Papua New Guinean people and increasingly with people in places like Africa and Central America," Mr Gosford said.

"When I talked to Aboriginal people about it later, they said, 'Well that's what the birds do, that bit in the ceremony is us telling the story to those people that don't know, about this is how these birds behave'."

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