Pigeon Camera

Artifact Details

Pigeon cameras were ultimately ineffective, as the birds had trouble flying over the exact locations CIA needed images of.

CIA’s Office of Research and Development developed a camera small and light enough to be carried by a pigeon. With the camera strapped to its breast, the bird would be released. With the camera running, the bird would fly over a target on its return home. Being a common species, the pigeon concealed its role as an intelligence collection platform among the activities of thousands of other birds. Pigeon imagery was taken within hundreds of feet of the target so it was much more detailed than imagery from other collection platforms. (Aircraft took photos from tens of thousands of feet and satellites from hundreds of miles above the target.)

The camera could be set to begin taking photographs after release or after a pre-set delay. The camera took a series of still images at a set interval. A tiny, battery-powered motor advanced the film and cocked the shutter. Details of pigeon missions are still classified.

Artifact Specs

4.7 cm x 2.4 cm x 2.2 cm

(L x W x H)

Additional Photos


The Debrief: Behind the Artifact - Spy Pigeon

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