Scientists Are Reanimating Dead Birds

Scientists are now using taxidermy birds to create flying drones to blend in with real birds.

By Jessica Scott | Published

swarm of birds

The future is here and it is disturbing. Scientists are revealing that they have created prototypes for drones that are built using parts of dead birds so that they can blend in better with real animals to observe their behavior… and ours. According to New Scientist, “Flapping-wing drones camouflaged with the bodies of taxidermy birds could help study flocks of wild birds or enable military spy missions, but they’re not yet the most efficient flyers.”

Huh. So, a bird corpse mounted on a drone isn’t great at flying, eh? Who would have thought?

Using taxidermied pieces from pheasants, pigeons, crows, and hummingbirds, researchers are building these flying machines so that they will look as much as possible like real, living birds. Apparently, though, creating a drone in this manner is “difficult.”

The main issue is with the drone’s flight. The artificial parts that make up the actual drone part of the monstrosity – I mean, machine – are perfectly capable of flight, but at the moment, these Frankenstein-ish birds can only hover like hummingbirds or glide along without flapping their wings.

The real, taxidermied bird wings used in the drone’s construction make it look very realistic, but scientists have not yet been able to replicate the realistic movement of a bird in flight. However, using these real wings “removes the need to design and manufacture a wing,” which is often even more challenging to do.

Another problem with the current prototypes is that they tend to be pretty loud. A cyborg bird can’t hope to blend in with the native birds and other wildlife of an area if it is making the loud, humming noise of a drone the whole time, can it? 

A bit of soundproofing could help with this, however, and researchers have suggested changing the spur gears to helical gears inside to help create a quieter aircraft, so that may be one issue that’s not too tough to solve.

The other issue may be an ethical one. These faux birds are being created to gather intel about wild birds and other animals, but that is just one of their intended purposes. They are also reportedly being made so that they can be used in human surveillance. Spying, in other words.

Ironically, there was a movement that made it into the headlines a few years ago called “Birds Aren’t Real,” in which a young man attempted to convince others that there was really no such thing as birds: our avian allies were really drones sent by the government to gather intel about us. This was, of course, all in fun, but it’s not so funny anymore now that it seems like, instead of having a laugh about it, the government started taking notes.

On the other hand, though, no one would ever suspect a real bird was listening in on their conversations, so this could be an optimum way to gather information on the country’s enemies or to catch criminals without letting them know someone was on to them. 

So, I guess the idea of drones built with parts from real birds could be kind of cool… if you can get past the whole “reanimating a dead body” part.