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Are birds real?

Investigating and debunking the internet trend claiming birds aren’t real

Since the government shutdown, the skies have been quiet. The previously pervasive and never ceasing song of birds rang out in Arcata, but today that song has quieted.

A conspiracy theory of sinister government surveillance has spread across the internet. A bold claim, “Birds Aren’t Real” is a movement attempting to spread their truth about birds; they believe birds (particularly pigeons and turkeys) are government drones who have been surveying the American people since 1959.

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Birds aren’t real “Prototype.” | Photo courtesy from Birds Aren’t Real Instagram page

The fossil record shows birds have been a diverse part of the natural environment for approximately 66 million years. The Cretaceous-Paleocene extinction event was when a massive meteor hit the earth and wiped out three quarters of all life on the planet. The event challenged dominant dinosaurs and other land dwelling animals to the point of extinction, but birds took advantage of their ability to fly and spread across the world.

Today, we are faced with a story satirically written on the Birds Aren’t Real website. Delving into the “history” section, we learn about the CIA plot to cause the mass destruction of birds using poison water deployed from unmarked B-52 bombers. Nestled within this history section it’s written: “On June 14, 1959, the CIA secretly began ‘Water the Country.’ Within the next six years, 72 percent of the bird population was wiped out. During this nightmare event, the first few bird prototypes were released by the hundred thousand.” If true, the operation destroyed the 200 – 400 billion birds who inhabited the planet. An absolute travesty.

We decided to get to the bottom of the issue and find out if birds are, in fact, real. The hypothesis is that a real bird would be made of flesh and blood, whereas a surveillance drone would be made of metal and silicon. The Humboldt Wildlife Care Center (HWCC) was more than happy to talk to me about the birds they help. I met Monte Merrick, a volunteer at HWCC. He had just finished doing an autopsy on a robin who had been hit by a car earlier that day. It was a sad situation- the bird died due to its injuries. Merrick was solemn as we talked about the topic, but he explained that one of the first things you notice when you cut open an animal is that it has a skeleton analogous to ours.

“We have lots of empirical evidence that birds are real,” Merrick said.

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Humboldt Wildlife Care Center volunteer, Monte Merrick. | Photo By Collin Slavey

The Humboldt Wildlife Care Center helps treat approximately 1200 animals per year. Seventy-five percent of those are birds. Merrick was very confident that birds are real, claiming “It’s not really a question, it’s knowledge.”

As the federal government comes back online and birds continue to sing, seek out these beautiful animals. Visit the Arcata marsh any time of day for a chance to see the majestic great egret and listen for duck calls at Allen Lake. You may want to keep an eye on those pigeons, though.

For more information please visit Birds Aren’t Real website.

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