Are birds we see every day actually drones sent to spy on us?

By April 12, 2022 Society

We came across this post being shared on Facebook:

Below is the video in full:

In the video, we see an individual holding on to what looks like a pigeon. As the individual opens up both of its wings, what appears to be a UV light is shone upon them, revealing some characters on the tips of its wings.

While they do look like Chinese characters, it is uncertain what the characters represent, or where and when the video was taken.

However, the author of the post states that this video proves that “everyday ‘birds’ you see are drones or fake birds”, adding that “the real [birds] fly too high for you to see all the time like your eagles & hawks for example”.

Birds or ‘birds’?

While the pigeon in the video definitely looks as real as a bird can get, we still decided to check if there could be any possible explanation for this weird phenomenon.

When we Googled the keywords “pigeon marking on wings”, we were led to links on forums like Reddit, news websites, and Youtube videos making reference to the video being circulated.

In a Youtube video addressing the viral claim, the creator explained that these are actually markings found on racing pigeons. “Pigeon racing is a sport where homing pigeons are taken some distance from their homes and released, with the fastest pigeon home declared the winner,” he explained.

To prevent cheating, wings of competing birds are stamped by racing clubs as such:

While this is commonly done with a standard ink stamp, some have turned to more “high tech” solutions, just like the UV fluorescent stamps seen in the video.

This notion of pigeons having ‘mysterious’ stamps on their wings is also talked about in an article on the BBC which reports on how pigeons with unknown characters stamped on their wings had prompted some people in Da Nang and on the internet to suggest the birds were “on a spying mission from China”.

Locals had even trapped about 16 of these pigeons and handed them to police for investigation purposes:

These suspicions were debunked by the police, who traced the birds to racing clubs in nearby countries and said that they were “in fact just regular racing pigeons in need of a rest”.

While past incidents point to the likelihood of the bird in the video being a racing pigeon that has its wings marked out by racing clubs, we’ll need to rate this claim as likely false because we’re unable to identify the exact origins of the specific markings seen.

Not the first time people have claimed that birds are fake

Interestingly enough, the conspiracy theory that birds are fake and/or tools for spying goes beyond these claims about racing pigeons.

In December 2021, a report on the New York Times explored a “parody social movement” by certain Gen Z individuals in the US called “Birds Aren’t Real”.

Playing off the conspiracy theory which “posits that birds don’t exist and are really drone replicas installed by the US government to spy on Americans”, the creator of Birds Aren’t Real and the movement’s followers are using it to “fight and poke fun at misinformation […] in a post-truth world dominated by online conspiracy theories”.

Said Peter McIndoe, 23, creator of the movement: “Dealing in the world of misinformation for the past few years, we’ve been really conscious of the line we walk […] The idea is meant to be so preposterous, but we make sure nothing we’re saying is too realistic.”

He and his friend Connor Gaydos had even gone so far as to “write a false history of the movement, concocted elaborate theories and produced fake documents and evidence to support his wild claims”. Added McIndoe: “It basically became an experiment in misinformation […] We were able to construct an entirely fictional world that was reported on as fact by local media and questioned by members of the public.”

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