Courtesy of Dana Townsend

Pigeons are narcs

The birds aren’t real, or maybe they are. A long-founded conspiracy theory says somewhere between the 1970s and 1980s, all pigeons were eradicated by the government and replaced with robot surveillance birds.

Birds Aren’t Real, a nearly two-year-old movement that claims the CIA took out 12 billion feathered fugitives because directors within the organization were “annoyed that birds had been dropping fecal matter on their car windows.” They were then replaced with bird-like robots that could be used to surveil Americans. Of the many conspiracy theories, this particular one has taken on a comedic yet realistically invasive face.

The attention Birds Aren’t Real has drawn on social media is continually increasing, thanks to an Instagram account with more than 50,000 followers, a YouTube page with more than 45,000 views and a Twitter profile with nearly 8,500 followers. The movement is consistently increasing and has taken on different names. “All of the birds died in 1986 due to Reagan killing them and replacing them with spies that are now watching us,” said comedian Kendrick Smith. “The birds work for the bourgeoisie.” Smith discussed the theory in a recent podcast of his and since has started a new trending wave for the government-fueled idea.

Since there are numerous outlets and organizations that believe in the theory, it is difficult to track down one origin story. There are common ideas and motives in the explanation of this theory, but everyone believes something slightly different.

One main explanation is that the birds were eradicated following the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The CIA was founded in 1947, and its sole responsibility was to watch and survey tens of thousands of Americans suspected of communism. This orchestrated stalking epidemic went on for almost five years, but few were found guilty of any real crimes. However, it became clear in the early 1950s that the threat of communism was only going to rise, and a broader system was needed to track any individual who was suspected of such activity.

They sought to kill two birds with one stone and remove all birds from the United States (thus eliminating their fecal problem) but also replacing these birds with billions of sophisticated robot look-a-likes capable of mimicking real birds in every way. Dulles and his team wanted to create the greatest surveillance system ever imagined—with the capability of tracking someone on foot, in a vehicle or even in their personal home. The targets were then eradicated between 1959 and 1971 with specially altered B-52 bombers stocked with poison.

The opposing theory is that birds were the result of the Reagan administration. The idea here is that Reagan wanted to keep tabs on his opposition, which as Watergate revealed, is true. In an effort to maximize the coverage and still maintain the covertness, Reagan funded the CIA to create bird-like surveillance robots that would obtain information from his opposing party. The birds would then have been killed and replaced somewhere between the late 1970s and mid-1980s, about a decade or so from the opposing theory.

Though the timeline is significantly different, and the era of technology the country was in varies, both have substantial similarities. Above all, both are ploys to spy on American citizens unknowingly. As far-fetched as they may seem, the theories merely echo our current paranoia of government spying.

In addition to this, where are all the dead pigeons? With over 10–20 billion pigeons in the U.S. alone, how are the streets not littered with dead pigeons? These birds are known to scatter and hoard the streets of all our major cities, yet most people can’t recall seeing any of them dead. Of course pigeons have natural predators such as cats and other larger birds, but they can’t all be eaten. 

From targeted ads to artificial intelligence, birds having cameras doesn’t sound that far off.