How did Ravens/Crows know where to deliver messages way before mail was invented?

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How did Ravens/Crows know where to deliver messages way before mail was invented?

Laurie Iversen

Votes: 9605

Ravens and crows did not deliver messages, pigeons did. Pigeons go back to where they were born and raised if they are taken from their coop.

So people would take pigeons with them on journeys (for example, to war), and when they wanted to send a message, they would tie it to the leg of the pigeon and the pigeon would fly home.

The person who raised the pigeon would get the message and pass it on to whomever it was intended for.

Alex Cooper

Votes: 7930

Yes, but probably not the way you think. And if by “birds”, you mean “pigeons”.

Pigeons aren’t trained “to go from place to place”, and aren’t aware that they’re being used as coo-riers.*


To them, they’re simply flying home — hence the term “homing pigeon”. People would take pigeons with them, then release them with messages. The pigeons wouldn’t come back to the person that released them; they’d fly home and stay there until someone else took them.

How do they do it? Pigeons have an innate ability to find their way back home using magnetoreception [ ], AKA detecting the earth’s magnetic field. Messenger pigeons were selectively bred from wild rock doves, weeding out the individuals with a dodgy internal compass and—during wartime—those that were conscientious obj…

Sunil Kumar Gopal

Votes: 3825

The ravens in A Song of Ice and Fire are indeed like homing pigeons – they only go to one castle, and they are manually carried back in cages. There are exceptions to this, of course, but those ravens are supposedly very rare.

“A maester’s raven flies to one place, and one place only. Is that correct?”

The maester mopped sweat from his brow with his sleeve. “N-not entirely, Your Grace. Most, yes. Some few can be taught to fly between two castles. Such birds are greatly prized. And once in a very great while, we find a raven who can learn the names of three or four or five castles, and fly to each upon command. Birds as clever as that come along only once in a hundred years.”

—- The Winds of Winter

In A Dance with Dragons, Bloodraven revealed that the raven-message system had magical origins. The Children of the Forest taught the First Men to send messages through ravens – the birds will have a part of a Child skinchanger in them, and would speak the message out loud.

“Do all the birds have singers in them?”

“All,” Lord Brynden said. “It was the singers who taught the First Men to send messages by raven… but in those days, the birds would speak the words. The trees remember, but men forget, and so now they write the messages on parchment and tie them round the feet of birds who have never shared their skin.”

—- A Dance with Dragons

Sarah Taylor

Votes: 6727

For what it’s worth, ravens and crows as messengers is an idea taken from mythology.

Ravens were also often associated with warfare or with trickster figures, both of which seem in keeping with the idea of a raven messenger being used in time of war. (The trickster ravens would naturally be very intelligent and able to communicate with humans.) (For more information: Cultural depictions of ravens – Wikipedia )

Part of this is because ancient people were observant, and they noticed that ravens and crows are extremely intelligent birds. If a bird could be trained to carry messages (and not just return home, like a “homing pigeon”), a crow or a raven would be a good candidate. (The smartest bird in the world is a type of crow.)

New Caledonian Crows construct and use their own tools, and they pass the technique down to future generations. So, if your message was a clever pattern for a leaf-hook tool, they could probably carry it. (File:CorvusMoneduloidesKeulemans.jpg – Wikimedia Commons )

Ade Black

Votes: 7703

They did not know, Ravens especially are territorial, So if someone took and raised a Raven from an egg to adult hood. The raven would make where it was raised it’s territory. Take it away from this area and it will try to get back there. But just as often it would attempt to set up a new territory somewhere nearer to the place it was released. Crows were even more unlikely to return as their territorial instincts are even less than a Ravens.

People had far more success with pigeons, due to the amount of a substance called magnatite in pigeons brains. This allows them to determine which direction is North and work out which direction is home. Which is why pigeons circle alot when they first take off, they are getting their bearings. Homing pigeons were used in ancient times by the Greeks and Romans right up until the First World War. Which shows how successful the pigeons were at delivering the messages.

Mercedes R. Lackey

Votes: 6455

Ravens have never been used as carrier birds, except in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire aka Game of Thrones series, which is fantasy fiction. Quite frankly I find his use of ravens as messengers even more unbelievable than his dragons. This is because ravens are so smart that 15 seconds after the message was put on them, they’d use it as a toy and destroy it.

No carrier bird has ever gone to a “person.” That is not how messenger birds (all pigeons) work.

A messenger bird is trained to recognize a certain place as “home.” Several of these birds are taken away from home. When a message needed to be sent, the bird has the message strapped to it, either on its leg or in a body harness. The bird is released and flies “home.” The designated keeper of these birds checks ones that have come in for messages, and relays the message to the appropriate person. Every bird that is trained to accept a certain place as “home” always goes there. You cannot move “home,” or the bird will simply go to the place where “home” used to be.

This is why they are also called “homing pigeons.”

The hallowed history of the carrier pigeon

Bruce Spielbauer

Votes: 1957

Nope. In one test (conducted by CBS News), 13 people were able to duplicate his shots. Four of those people had never fired the Mannlicher Carbiner, and had never been trained.

Oswald 1) had been trained. His marine record with a rifle is an open book. Sometimes, he ranked as “Sharpshooter.” Sometimes, he ranked as “Marksman.”

Oswald 2) had practiced. Marina testified to three visits to a firing range in northern Dallas and one in Irving. Six eyewitnesses testified to his presence there, and one handwritten log kept at one of the ranges shows he practiced at the range in north Dallas. The couple that Oswald lived with (at Marina’s Irving address) testified how they drove him there, on two of the occasions.

Oswald 3) had practiced using the Mannlicher Carcano. According to Marina’s testimony.

The timing has been reproduced, more than a hundred times. The accuracy is not even an issue (these were easy shots). He shot three times. His first shot — obstructed by the tree — was the only one that did not hit his target.

Visit Dallas. Visit the Sixth Floor Museum. Note how close Oswald was, and how the shots were easy, and close — even if he had not had a scope.

Donna Fernstrom

Votes: 4250

The pigeons used to carry messages are called homing pigeons. These pigeons are particularly good at remembering where they live, and finding their way even when they’ve been transported tremendous distances away from it. If you want to be really sure your messages will get through, you’ll give the pigeons a few trial runs first, to make sure they know the way.

You take the pigeons from their home, put them into cages, and transport them to your location. When you want to send a message, you strap it in a special lightweight case to the pigeon’s leg, and you let the pigeon go.

It simply flies home, that’s all.

Pigeons don’t fly anywhere else — only home.

The advantage to a pigeon-borne message is that it’s unlikely to be intercepted, and the pigeon will head for home very fast — faster than a car could ever get there.

The disadvantage is that pigeons can sometimes become lost, and they’re certainly prone to being picked off by predators. So, often, messages would be repeated with multiple birds, so that at least one pigeon would make it home.

Mercedes R. Lackey

Votes: 5276

How do pigeons deliver the letters to the correct person?

They don’t.

They deliver them to a place, that place being the home in which they grew up.

Carrier pigeons are raised in a particular place. They are then taken away from that place by the people who want to send messages to people in that place. When the pigeons are released with their messages, they then return to that place, and the person in charge of the pigeons takes the message and gives it to the right person at that place.

Mercedes R. Lackey

Votes: 4147

In T.V. and movie period pieces, how do ravens know where to fly to deliver messages?

Because it’s fantasy, and in fantasy you can do whatever you want.

In the real world, attaching a message to a raven would result in this.

The raven looks at the object.

The raven hammers at the object.

The raven removes the object and plays with it awhile

The raven either abandons the object or stashes it in its hoard to play with later.

The raven flies off laughing at you.

Claire Jordan

Votes: 9473

How did pigeons know where to go when they were used as a means of transporting messages?

They only knew how to return to their home. Once they got there, the messages they were carrying were collected and forwarded to the recipients. So say you wanted to send messages from France to Oxford, you would collect a pigeon that lived near Oxford, take it to France, then attach a message to its leg and release it to fly back to its home farm or loft.

Mark Harrison

Votes: 2953

Did carrier pigeons actually exist? Are movies yanking my chain here? If they did, how can a bird know who to deliver a message to?

They only knew how to fly home.

If you wanted to get a message to Castle Harrison, you’d get someone to raise a bunch of pigeons that regarded it as home.

Then, when you sent out your (human) messenger, you’d give him a couple of those pigeons in a cage.

When he needed to get the reply back to you, he’d tie it to their ankles, and send them home.

You couldn’t tell them to go anywhere else.

Bruce Dyer

Votes: 1410

Question from Kyle Sarringar – How were carrier pigeons trained to carry messages hundreds of miles?

Actually you can’t train a carrier pigeon. Carrier pigeons are really homing pigeons with messages attached to them. There are many theories on what it is that makes them fly for hundreds of miles back to their lofts, with or without messages. No one is entirely sure how the birds orient themselves to find their homes. There have been suggestions that they use the position and angle of the sun to navigate or possibly the magnetic fields of the Earth. A recent suggestion has been that homing pigeons use low frequency infrasound, inaudible to human ears, until they pick up the signature sound of their home loft and then fly towards it. As with humans and many other species, once close to home the birds also rely on visual landmarks such as water towers, the shapes of water bodies they’ve flown over before, or anything else that they recognize, How Do Homing Pigeons Find Home?

So you don’t really train carrier or homing pigeons, you just let them use their skills and follow their instincts. Mind you, you can take them out for regular practice flights maybe 20 or 50 miles from home to keep their skills sharp, but ultimately the flying home is on them. Pigeons have been used to carry messages for centuries. Not all come home, but a great many do. Here are some pictures of homing pigeons used to carry messages. You can see that the messages are attached in different ways.

Perhaps the most famous carrier pigeon ever was Cher Ami who flew during World War I. In 1918 an American battalion fighting in the Argonne lost reconnaissance with command and ended up being shelled by their own troops because they were out of radio range. They had to rely on carrier pigeons. Cher Ami: The Pigeon that Saved the Lost Battalion Here is a stock photo of pigeons flying missions in the war.

On October 4th the troops were being severely shelled. Pigeons were sent up with messages for headquarters but one after another they were shot down by German troops with their deadly MG 08s, which could fire over 500 rounds per minute.

The Americans were down to their last pigeon, Cher Ami. He was released and flew over the German lines amidst the shooting. She was hit but she carried on. She made it bak to headquarters with the message “We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven’s sake, stop it.”

Cher Ami was awarded the Croix de Guerre, one of France’s highest military honors for his gallantry in the field. General John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force, said “There isn’t anything the United States can do too much for this bird.”

(Captain John Carney, trainer, holding Cher Ami)

Cher Ami made it home to the United States after the war but died shortly afterwards, on June 13th, 1919.. His body was preserved and presented to the American government with honour. Cher Ami was stuffed and mounted and today is in the Smithsonian Museum of American History. Cher Ami: The Pigeon that Saved the Lost Battalion

I normally write posts about cats.

Andrew Lindsey

Votes: 1617

Birds are made to carry messages by taking advantage of their natural homing instinct. You raise a bird at the location you want the message to go to, then carry it some distance away and let it go. It then flies home, taking the message with it.

Some birds are better than this at others. You want a bird that routinely travels many miles between feeding grounds and nesting grounds, that has a well-developed homing instinct and the ability to travel for miles even under poor weather conditions.

You also want the bird to be easy to raise in large numbers, to not be too dangerous to its handlers, and to be not inclined to immediately rip the message off once released.

Pigeons are really, really good at this. Owls, not so much, they have small hunting territories and don’t really ‘home’ so well. They’re also really difficult to raise and not at all domesticated. Falcons are also more likely to just go off and find their own way and not bother going back home. Ravens are too smart, they’ll rip the message off and play with it as a toy as soon as you let them go.

Andrew Lindsey

Votes: 4237

How did the ravens know where to deliver their messages?

Ravens have never been used for delivering messages in the real world.

Pigeons are used for delivering messages, not ravens. To make a pigeon deliver a message, you raise it at the location where you want the message to go to. It gets to know that location as home. You will then take that pigeon with you when you leave, and when you need to send a message you attach it to the pigeon and then release it. The pigeon will then fly home, taking the message with it. Unlike ravens, pigeons have excellent homing skills and the ability to use the Earth’s magnetic field for navigation.

Eve v K

Votes: 3283

Ravens were never used to send messages. Homing pigeons were used, but I guess that’s not cool enough for your average fantasy setting.

Which is a shame, really, pigeons are awesome. They have been used in the wars (one even got a medal of honour for saving a bomber crew) and of course there was the famous Cher Ami who flew straight through enemy lines and artillery fire to deliver messages. Homing pigeons were used to deliver messages as early as 3000 years ago, to declare the winner of the Ancient Olympics. Even Ghenghis Khan used them to send messages.

But, you know, I guess they look kind of silly so screw all that. We can’t have Lord Stark send a flying city rat, now can we? Anyway, ravens don’t have the homing instinct that made pigeons so suitable in the first place, so they can’t be used to send messages, not over long distances like pigeons are.

Simon Chadwick

Votes: 5258

Qyburn told Cersei that the armouries had been working day and night to build the one he demonstrated on the skull of Balerion.

So we know that take considerable time to construct.

Your question also seems to assume that the one used against Drogon is the only one in existence.

There may well be more at Kings Landing protecting the Red Keep. In fact I would say that’s almost certain.

The one taken by Jamie to Highgarden may have been a precautionary measure only.

They knew Dany was at Dragonstone. They weren’t attacking Dragonstone and didn’t expect to face dragons.

I think your question assumes that Drogon destroyed the only scorpion, and I doubt that’s the case.

The Red Keep will have more on the battlements to use against Dragons.

Obviously I’ve not seen any more than you, it’s just my guess

Mercedes R. Lackey

Votes: 7215

Could ravens be used to send messages like in a Game of Thrones?

They can, bearing in mind that unlike pigeons, who tend to identify place with food, and can be counted on to go pretty reliably from point A to point B, ravens are intelligent, curious, and scavengers, and all three characteristics would tend to distract them. You’d have to put a lot more effort into your training, and the reward a raven would get from delivering a message would have to be something much tastier than he would expect to find on his own.

Mercedes R. Lackey

Votes: 172

Can ravens really be trained to be carriers and carry messages?

The answer is yes and no. Yes, because they certainly could be trained, easily, to tolerate a message canister and take it to someone. No, because they are wickedly smart, and there would have to be some really compelling reason in their minds to do that, and not take the canister off, play with it, break it, tear up the parchment inside, then go hide the pretty canister to play with later.

Claire Jordan

Votes: 5449

Why are ravens considered different than crows?

They’re both corvids, but ravens (of which there are many species) are generally bigger, more solitary and with thicker feathering on the neck and chest and proportionately heavier beaks [and Geoff has pointed out that ravens generally have the upper bill slightly longer than the lower bill, forming a small but definite projecting hook].

Michael KarnerforsShane Ryoo

Votes: 6895

Plutonium spheres are held barehanded by characters in the latest Mission Impossible film with no ill effects. In Fat Man & Little Boy, this was fatal. Are we seeing new technology, or are we just seeing more Hollywood science clueless-ness?

Actually Hollywood got it right, for once

Don’t try this at home, these people are professionals, and they still messed it up.

Plutonium — for the most part — is a really boring metal, and not at all a purveyor of Magical Death Cooties, a trope that fiction writers have abused to, well, death.

The normal case is just that of Mission Impossible. You can handle Plutonium with your bare hands. Plutonium gives off alpha-radiation and that is pretty much harmless, unless you eat or breathe Plutonium powder. So, remember to wash your hands after playing with Plutonium. No, wash I said. Just using a han

Paul Carter

Votes: 8969

What is the relationship between crows and ravens?

They are in the same family, corvidae. This family also contains jays, jackdaws, nutcrackers, magpies and rooks. There are 120 spp. that are called called corvids. Crows and ravens are the only wholly black birds in the 810 North American bird species and their brains are bigger than all other passerine (perching) birds.

To tell them apart the two things I use most are, size, ravens are much larger than crows, and, ravens have an easily visible tuft of feathers under their neck. Ravens usually fly in pairs and crows usually fly in small flocks. If you ever hear a raven or ravens you’ll probably

Amy Christa Ernano

Votes: 6212

What are the differences between ravens and crows?

Ravens are much larger than crows — the common raven can be over two feet long and have a wingspan of over four feet, while the American crow (as an example) averages about 1.5 feet long with a wingspan of up to around three feet.

Ravens also have thicker bills, shaggier feathers, especially around the head and throat, and have wedge-shaped tails, where crows have fan-shaped tails. Their calls are also distinctly different — crows caw, while ravens croak, a much throatier sound.

But seeing them in flight, size is always the immediate distinguishing factor for me. Ravens are huge for passerine bi

Kelsey L. Hayes

Votes: 7897

How fast are ravens? How long would it take to carry a message from Winterfell to Sunspear for example?

If anyone has sent a raven across the Narrow Sea I don’t remember it happening. The raven system is based on birds that are going “home” to the castle that they’re actually based at. So if Winterfell wants to send a message to Last Hearth, they need to send a bird that is originally based at Last Hearth so the bird knows to go “home.” It’d be difficult to set up that system in Essos and get the birds allocated around to Westerosi castles. Not to mention whatever logistical issues pop up with sending birds over a large body of water. The raven system has its roots in the Children of the Forest,

Kelsey L. Hayes

Votes: 5380

How long does it take for a raven to fly to different locations? For instance, when Stannis sent his declaration out, how long did it take a bird to get to, say, Highgarden? Is there ever any indication?

Ravens in the story travel as quickly or as slowly as the plot demands. Hardcore realism isn’t really a consideration unless a deviation in either extreme — way too fast or way too slow — would be jarring. Ravens are plot devices used to convey information and in turn for that information (or lack thereof) to affect the plot. So expect faster ravens if someone needs to know something ASAP and in turn act on that information, and slower ravens if the lack of information is also crucial to the plot, e.g. if someone is laboring under a misconception or if it’s important for someone to not know so

Mike Webster

Votes: 7752

Why do people claim the United Kingdom isn’t bordered by the Pacific Ocean?

The real question is how you have somehow managed to go through your entire life without ever seeing a map of the world or a globe. Do you even know where the Pacific ocean is? Do you know what the United Kingdom is and where it is located? Clearly the answer to one of those two questions has to be no. Nobody who knows where the Pacific ocean is and knows where the UK is could possibly believe that it somehow borders the Pacific ocean.

Tim Drozinski

Votes: 9428

Can a raven really send a message to someone like in Game of Thrones? If so, how do they know where to go?

Ravens, in reality, are one of the most intelligent bird species in the world. They are known to solve complex problems, and even learn to use tools.

Many birds can also be trained to home (as in, “homing” pigeons). You raise a bird in one place, and then you put it in a cage and take it somewhere else to release it. It will find its way home. You keep taking it farther and farther away each time you release it, and it learns how to return home from farther and farther away. Eventually, you take it to a distant place and leave it there in its cage until it’s needed, at which time you tie a mess

Hannah Silver

Votes: 3584

What birds are ideal for carrying messages (for a book), except owls or ravens?

Pigeons. In fact, pigeons are much better at this than owls would be – there’s a reason why messenger pigeons were used in the military until radios were reliable enough to replace them completely. Pigeons can be trained to go to a location, carry a message, and return to their handler.

Ravens and crows are intelligent enough that they could definitely carry messages, but they’re intelligent enough that they’d need significantly more motivation to do it than a pigeon would. And while they look cooler than pigeons, they’re much less docile and more likely to get bored and start looking for ways

Kelsey L. Hayes

Votes: 9336

How do the ravens work? How do they know where they go?

They work in the same basic way as carrier pigeons, if you’re familiar with those. A raven that knows of Winterfell as “home” would know to fly there, and a raven that knows of King’s Landing as “home” would know to fly there.

Eventually in the books we learn that the ravens have a supernatural sort of origin story, but I won’t spoil anything.

Davidson Southey

Votes: 5076

Can ravens and crows interbreed?

Yes, but they very rarely do. Ravens get more out of eating crows than shagging them.

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