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Felonious Birds: Pigeon Spies, Cartel Lookout Parrots and Killer Subway Street Birds

A bird’s-eye view of avian adventures in crime

For as long as there have been heists and busts, there have been animal culprits and co-conspirators. It seems like just about every other week, you read a story about a bear that ate a duffel bag filled with coke or the monkeys in Southeast Asia who double as pickpockets and kidnappers. But when it comes to the true criminals of the animal kingdom, birds seem to always fly to the top of the list. 

They make excellent criminals because 1) they can take to the air at a moment’s notice (duh); 2) they can be trained; and 3) some varieties can talk. Which is why parrots are highly prized by the cocaine cartels — they can be better lookouts than drones or even local kids.

In Colombia, there was Lorenzo. A lookout parrot for a cartel, Lorenzo had no love for the Five-O, and whenever he’d spot the cops on the creep outside the trafficker’s headquarters, he’d start to shriek in Spanish, “Run, run, the cat is going to get you!” Lorenzo was so good at his job that when Colombian cops finally figured out how to sneak into the compound without being detected by him, they found an additional 1,000 parrots, all of whom were being trained as lookouts. Apparently, Lorenzo had worked out so well, the cartel was creating a whole army to parrot him (my apologies). 

Not to be outdone by the Colombians, members of the Brazilian criminal underworld have also turned to lookout parrots in recent years. In the town of Vila Irmã Dulce, police claimed that a parrot had been taught by a drug-dealing couple to shout, “Mum, the police!” whenever Johnny Law came sniffing around. When the couple was ultimately busted, the parrot — whose name wasn’t released and whose identity was protected by police — was seized. A Brazilian journalist who met with the felonious parrot post-arrest was left with the impression that the bird was a “super obedient creature.” He was also no snitch. As the journalist explained, “So far it hasn’t made a sound. It’s completely silent.”

Over in the Netherlands, they don’t have as many parrots, but they will arrest a bird. The police in the City of Utrecht were called out in 2019 to investigate a shoplifting suspect. The cops arrived and arrested the suspect — and then busted his feathered accomplice, too. The police posted a photo of the bird on social media, writing, “We recently arrested a suspect for shoplifting. During the arrest, we found a sneaky witness with feathers and beak on the suspect’s shoulder.” Much like in Brazil, efforts were made to protect the bird’s identity. In fact, when local news covered the arrest, they even blurred out its face.

Traveling further east, birds are actually turning to international espionage. At least, that’s what India claimed Pakistan was doing: sending bird spies over the border. In 2015, a local Indian boy spotted a bird just two miles from the Pakistan border that had a message in Urdu stamped onto its body, along with a phone number. The boy didn’t know what to do, so he took the bird to the police, who were equally mystified. Via X-rays, they weren’t able to find any weapons or explosives hidden inside the feathery double agent. In any event, they decided to keep the bird “in custody” for further investigation. They also documented the bird’s status, writing that the “suspected spy” had been captured. 

We can’t, however, forget the most wicked, messed-up bird crime of the last few years, which is when a pair of NYC subway pigeons mobbed up on another pigeon. Then, in what was the most stunning development, as a train pulled into the station, the two bird bullies shoved the bird they were harassing down onto the train tracks before flying away, leaving the pigeon to be killed by the passing train. 

Whoever knew birds went so hard like that? But maybe the better question is: What kind of fowl play can we expect in the future?