Guest Column

Panic Over ‘Spy Pigeons’ Caught In Odisha Unnecessary!

Anil Dhir

Bhubaneswar: The brouhaha about two spy pigeons being caught and the attached cameras being sent for forensic examination has been in the news recently, with many speculations about their origins and intentions.

While Pigeon photography is a technique invented in 1907, it became more popular after, the Second World War when cameras fitted to pigeons were used by different armies. A homing pigeon was fitted with a breast harness to which lightweight time-delayed miniature cameras. Such spy pigeons were used till the 1970s, but with advancements in aerial photography using planes, military interest in pigeon photography faded, and only hobby enthusiasts indulged in flying them.

The pigeons that have been caught are Belgian Homer Pigeons, the same breed that is used by the Orissa Pigeon Service.  One has to understand that a homing pigeon is one which will fly back home after being released at a distance from its coop. No way can a pigeon be trained to fly to a destination and then return to the base it was released from. Pigeons fly only one way, i.e. back home. The important thing about homing pigeons is that they can’t go from A to B and back. They can go from B to A.

The Orissa Police did have a few boomerang Pigeon services in the early days when Homer Pigeons were kept at two places for some time. They would fly from one place to the other and vice versa, to and fro, but not to multiple places. However these were not effective and were soon discontinued.

The pigeons that have been caught are certainly birds that were used by enthusiasts who fitted cameras to track the path they take to fly back. They were fitted with GPS chips, like done with many migratory birds at Chilika, to trace the routes they take. Such miniature Pigeon cameras and GPS Locators are available on many e-commerce sites including Amazon.

The figures written on the fantail feathers are suggestive that they may have been released from Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, or Vietnam.  Some birds do lose their way and fly offshore and make emergency landings on ships. Pigeons, crows, and sparrows cannot swim, they land on ships. This usually happens because of bad meteorological conditions, when birds are carried offshore by strong winds. They end up on sailing ships because they manage to find enough food on them. Many seamen report birds that board vessels in a harbour and feed on grains, etc. until it reaches another port.

There should not be unnecessary panic about such birds. With modern-day technology, one does not need pigeons for aerial photography, Google Maps is more effective and reliable.  The last official pigeon flight that was conducted by Orissa Police Pigeon Service was on April 2018 when 200 missives were carried for INTACH Odisha by 50 pigeons from Bhubaneswar to Cuttack.

Anil Dhir

Researcher & Columnist

Recent Posts

From Triple Train Crash In Odisha To Firozabad Collision, 10 Deadliest Accidents In 3 Decades

Bhubaneswar: At least 60 people are feared dead and over 600 injured in an accident…

June 3, 2023

Coromandel Accident In Odisha: 21 Trains Cancelled, Several Diverted; Check Details Here

Bhubaneswar: The Indian Railways has cancelled and rescheduled several trains following the triple train accident…

June 2, 2023

Railway Minister Announces Ex-Gratia For Coromandel Accident Victims

Bhubaneswar: The Indian Railways has announced compensation for the victims of train accident near Bahanaga…

June 2, 2023

Coromandel Accident: Check Helpline Nos Set Up By SER

Kolkata: South Eastern Railway have opened a number of Helpline numbers of stations in Odisha…

June 2, 2023

Coromandel Accident: Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw Rushing To Site, President ‘Deeply Anguished’

Bhubaneswar: Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw is rushing to the Coromandel Express accident site in…

June 2, 2023

Coromandel Accident Toll Goes Up To 50; Rly Minister & Odisha CM To Visit Spot Tomorrow

Bhubaneswar: The toll in the collision between two Express trains near Bahanaga station in Odisha's…

June 2, 2023