Perhaps the avian flu was a red herring meant to distract us from something more sinister. A kind of warning meant to keep us away from birds, and let them go about their business in peace — which didn’t work out in the end as millions were slaughtered to stop the spread of the disease. Even though herring (not the red kind) would definitely be high on the list of delectable treats preferred by many birds, the true calling of our flying foes and friends, it seems, is spying.
The Times of India recently reported that a “Pakistani” white pigeon was arrested on spy charges. Punjab police captured this feathered James Bond (or James Bird) near the border of Pakistan. They were concerned the winged creature had been sent to deliver a note — there’s poor mobile-phone reception in the area — to an active cell of the Indian Mujahideen terrorist group, as the pigeon had a “stamped message” written in Urdu attached to its body. The poor bird had to suffer a series of invasive tests, plus a full-body (admittedly a small body) X-ray. Even after nothing was found, the border-crossing pigeon was kept in custody.
A bird acting as spy is nothing new. Carrier pigeons have been used extensively in times of war and peace. A Bonelli’s Eagle was shot out of the sky by a Lebanese hunter and later accused of spying for Israel by Hezbollah. Several years ago, Turkish farmers “uncovered” what they believed was a plot to use tiny Bee Eater birds — possibly with miniature spying tech implanted in their enlarged nostrils — to gather intelligence on, well, I can only assume the nefarious activities of Turkish farmers?
With an uptick in avian spying cases, these birds who can’t all be spies are going to need to lawyer up. Take the case, for example, of the white stork detained in Egypt on suspicion of spying. The bird was later set free, but apparently quickly murdered and eaten after its release. Mere coincidence or brutal payback for suspected covert activity?
Clearly the birds of the world need to give Amal Clooney or another high-profile human-rights lawyer a birdcall. There’s nothing wrong with labeling something like trumped-up charges foul when you’re a fowl.
And maybe, before security services start “taking out” all of these avian snoopers from the fields and the skies, they might want to watch Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” again. Proper legal representation aside, if the birds decide to unite, we’ll have a lot more to worry about than the tiny sensors and cameras they carry around with them, you know, planted inside.
Carl Pettit is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.