How early humans used birds to send messages


Imagine a world without smartphones, emails, or even postal services. How would you communicate with someone far away?

Long before the digital age, early humans found an ingenious way to send messages over long distances – they used birds! This might sound surprising, but birds, especially pigeons, played a crucial role in communication.

Let’s take a journey back in time to see how our ancestors communicated with the help of our feathered friends.

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The idea of using birds to send messages probably began with simple observations. People noticed that certain birds, especially pigeons, had a strong homing instinct.

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A messenger bird [Medium]


This means they could find their way back to their home no matter how far away they were taken.

Early humans began to experiment with this by taking pigeons with them when they travelled and releasing them to send messages back home. Over time, this practice became more organised and widespread.

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While many birds can be trained, pigeons were the most popular choice for message delivery. Pigeons, also known as homing pigeons or carrier pigeons, have an incredible sense of direction and can fly long distances at high speeds.

Pigeons were the most popular choice for message delivery [MyModernMet]

Some other birds used included ravens and swallows, but pigeons were preferred for their reliability and ease of training.

Training a pigeon to carry messages wasn’t as difficult as it might seem. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide on how early humans did it:

  1. Raising the bird: The pigeon was raised in a loft, which became its home.
  2. Familiarisation: The bird was allowed to fly freely around the loft to become familiar with its home location.
  3. Transport and release: The pigeon was taken to a different location, often in a cage.
  4. Message attachment: A small piece of paper with a message was attached to the pigeon’s leg using a tiny tube or capsule.
  5. Release: The pigeon was released, and it would fly back to its home loft.

The pigeon’s natural homing instinct would guide it back home, where the recipient could retrieve the message.

Pigeons played a significant role in many historical events. For example:

  • Ancient Rome: Romans used pigeons to carry messages across their vast empire.
  • Middle Ages: Pigeons were used during the Crusades to send messages between armies and commanders.
  • World Wars: Pigeons were used extensively during both World War I and World War II. They carried important messages when other forms of communication were not possible.

One famous pigeon, named Cher Ami, saved nearly 200 soldiers during World War I by delivering a critical message despite being injured.

Cher Ami saved nearly 200 soldiers during World War I [Reddit]