Falcon Spy Camera Fears At India/Pakistan Border

Elaine Radford

A falcon spy camera sounds like something right out of James Bond or even Get Smart. However, that's the rumor that flew around after a dead falcon was found outfitted with a small device -- described as a possible spy camera -- that came complete with a 10 inch antenna.

An anonymous officer working for India's Border Security Force told the AFP press service that an investigation was being carried out to see if it was part of a spy attempt by neighboring Pakistan. Indian armed forces frequently carry out military exercises in the desert region near the ancient fort city of Jaisalmer.

How many falcon watchers suspect the anonymous officer of having fun yanking somebody's chain? Yeah, me too.

But maybe it isn't too difficult for a suspicious bird to get a rise out of some people in the Indian armed forces. In 2010, Indian police detained a pigeon on suspicion of spying.

Don't laugh. At least pigeons have a long and experienced history working as spies and messengers for the world's armed forces. The United States Army Pigeon Service wasn't shut down until 1957. Many pigeons were decorated for courage as a result of their service in World War I and II.

However, a falcon being asked to work as a spy might be a bit much to swallow.

While I don't expect the average soldier on patrol to know the difference between a saker and a peregrine falcon, I might ask if he could tell the difference between a GPS transmitter and a camera.

The Times of India had a much less exciting explanation for the falcon in question -- and they said the device was indeed a transmitter, not a camera.

The Times reporter noted that royal family members of an unnamed Gulf country had been seen hunting Houbara Bustards near that border on the Pakistan side. It is long-standing tradition for many Middle Eastern cultures to use trained falcons to assist in such hunts. Even from the Indian side, there were reports of sophisticated hunt vehicles equipped with communication devices to allow the hunters to keep track of their birds.

So...maybe cool falcon spy cameras are just a desert mirage.

[Saker Falcon photo by Dick Daniels with thanks to Carolina Birds via Wikipedia Commons]