AsapSCIENCE Explains Whether Birds Can Actually Deliver Messages the Way They Do on Television

In their latest episode, AsapSCIENCE takes a look at whether birds can actually deliver messages–such as the ravens seen in Game of Thrones–which birds are the best for sending messages, and how the birds know when they’ve reached the correct destination.

Not to burst your fantasy bubble, but Ravens, while incredibly intelligent, aren’t the likeliest of birds to get this job done. Sorry John Snow! But the somewhat surprising fact, But the somewhat surprising fact is that other birds, such as pigeons, are fantastic at it! Hence the name ‘carrier-pigeon’. In fact, they were successfully used nearly 3000 years ago to declare the winner of the Olympics, abroad. Pigeons have an innate homing ability, meaning they will return to their nest to mate. Flights as long as 1800 km have been recorded. Because of this, they have been used for centuries to send messages, but – and this is a pretty big but – they generally only sent messages in one direction. They would be taken away from their homes, and when needed, could send messages back home, because their natural instinct was to fly there. So the idea of sending a bird wherever you needed it to go is a little far-fetched. However, by placing their food at one location, and their home in another, pigeons have been trained to fly back and forth between two locations reliably.

submitted via Laughing Squid Tips