A Brief History of the Much-Maligned Rock Pigeon and Some of the Great Things It’s Done in the World

In the sixth episode of their video series Observatory, Vox takes a look at the history of the rock pigeon and how the much-maligned bird has contributed to wartime communication, search and rescue missions, and even smuggling contraband items due to its excellent eyesight and incredible homing instinct.

And until recently, pigeons were seen as useful companions. For instance, they were deployed in war for thousands of years, including the World Wars. “Sleek and well-fed pigeons, busy raising families of more flying messengers for use by troops in the field” They delivered a lot of messages. That’s Phil Edwards – he writes about history here at Vox. It didn’t need power. It didn’t need electrical lines. All it needed was the ability to fly and it would carry the message with it, and reliably it would get home. One pigeon saved 200 stranded American soldiers by delivering a message during World War I, despite being badly injured. In the second world war, the UK expanded their pigeon corps to 250,000 birds and sent parachutes carrying pigeons into occupied Europe—like a prepaid envelope—to solicit information. 32 pigeons ended up winning a medal for valor, the Dickin medal. Scientists haven’t quite figured out the mechanism behind their homing abilities, but some pigeons can be driven hundreds of miles away and still fly right home.

submitted via Laughing Squid Tips