Friday, November 1, 2019

Outdoor Object Lesson 105: On Firehawks

Key Verse

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9 WEB


Australia, the Land Down Under, has many unique and unusual animals. Some are scary, some are cute, and some are just odd. Firehawks might fall into the last category. Wildfires are common in Australia’s grasslands. They are often started by lighting and sometimes by humans. But some birds have come-to-light recently that also contribute to the spread of wildfire. Firehawk is a colloquial term referring to birds that deliberately spread fire. 

There are three known species that practice this odd behavior.  The black kite (Milvus migrans), whistling kite (Haliastur sphenurus), and the brown falcon (Falco berigora) have all been reported to spread fire purposely. These birds make their home in the open grasslands. They prey on small mammals, lizards, insects and other small animals. They have learned that as wildfires spread, the small animals flee the flames in great numbers. So, they perch near the edge of the fire and let the feast come to them. It's easy hunting.

But what if that does not provide enough food? These clever birds have learned that they can speed up the fire by picking up burning or smoldering sticks and drop them a half mile away to start a new fire. This will cause more small animals to flee straight into the talons of the firehawks!1,2 These birds are amazing and cleaver hunters, but their actions remind me of some people I have met. Maybe you know they type of person I am thinking of. They enjoy spreading gossip and discord among others that works like a flame spreading a destructive wildfire. They think it’s funny when they hurt or offend others. These individuals think it’s fun to start arguments or cause problems. They like to be annoying or insult people for pleasure. They are social firehawks! 

These people often spread discord and cause problems because they are hurting on the inside. But how do you deal with someone like that? The bible has a lot to say on this topic. “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him,” Titus 3:10 ESV. This is good advice. Try to discourage such a person from continuing in their ways. If they do not listen, it is best to avoid them. They are not your friend because they do not have your best interests in mind. 

Sadly, firehawks will always be around. Proverbs 26:20 offers another piece of advice, “Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.” NLT. You cannot always control firehawks or make them go away. But you can help stop the spread of their fire by not participating in their negative comments or gossip. The best thing you can do is pray for them and treat them with kindness no matter how they treat you.


How does it make you feel when someone hurts your feelings or gossips about you?

Why does the Bible advise us to avoid social firehawks? (read Titus 3:10 again)

Do you think people like that can change? Why or why not?

Is it our job as Christians to try and change or “convert” such people to the love of Christ? If so how?

Have you ever acted like a social firehawk? If so, what are going to do to change that?


1. Michael Greshko. “Why These Birds Carry Flames In Their Beaks,” January 8, 2018. National Geographic online, accessed from

2. Mark Bonta, Robert Gosford, Dick Eussen, Nathan Ferguson, Erana Loveless, and Maxwell Witwer "Intentional Fire-Spreading by “Firehawk” Raptors in Northern Australia," Journal of Ethnobiology 37(4), 700-718, (1 December 2017).

Written by David F. Garner
Photo credit: pen_ash via
Pictured above: brown falcon