Birds Aren't Real is a satirical conspiracy theory which posits that birds are actually drones operated by the United States government to spy on American citizens.[2][3][4][5] In 2018, journalist Rachel Roberts described Birds Aren't Real as "a joke that thousands of people are in on."[3]

Billboard in Memphis, Tennessee, 2019[1]


Poster inspired by the movement at the 35th Chaos Communication Congress conference in 2018

Peter McIndoe created the satirical conspiracy theory "on a whim" in January 2017. After seeing pro-Trump counter-protestors at the 2017 Women's March in Memphis, Tennessee, McIndoe wrote "Birds Aren't Real" on a poster and improvised a conspiracy theory amongst the counter-protestors as a "spontaneous joke". A video of McIndoe at the march went viral, which started the satirical movement.[2][6] In 2017, he posted on Facebook: "I made a satirical movement a few months ago, and people on Instagram seem to like it a lot." He later disclaimed the post, saying it was written by a staffer who was fired,[3] and did not admit until 2021 that he did not truly believe the conspiracy.[2][7]

The movement claims that all birds in the United States were exterminated by the federal government between 1959 and 1971 and replaced by lookalike drones used by the government to spy on citizens; the specifics of these theories are not always consistent, not unlike actual conspiracy theories. They claim that birds sit on power lines to recharge themselves, that birds defecate on cars as a tracking method, and that U.S. president John F. Kennedy was assassinated by the government due to his reluctance to kill all the birds.[4][8][9]


Some supporters have demonstrated with signs stating "Birds Aren't Real" and related slogans.[3] In 2019, a billboard was erected stating "Birds Aren't Real" in Memphis, Tennessee.[1] In 2021, some supporters demonstrated in front of Twitter's San Francisco headquarters demanding that the company change its bird logo.[2] In 2021, MSNBC said that the movement had hundreds of thousands of members.[10]

Media appearances

McIndoe has made multiple media appearances and done multiple interviews promoting the Birds Aren't Real movement. In 2021, he stated that he works full-time as a spokesperson for the movement, making money from sales of merchandise.[3]

Peter McIndoe, creator of Birds Aren't Real. 2023 Nobel Summit, Washington DC

In a 2019 interview with WREG-TV, McIndoe used bothsidesism to promote Birds Aren't Real, saying that he was offended by a question about whether the movement was satirical, as such a question would not be asked of the opposite opinion (that birds are real).[3] On January 6, 2022, McIndoe threw up during a live TV interview with the Chicago-based WGN9.[11][12] Adweek called it an "apparent prank"[13] and McIndoe labeled it a "hit job".[14]

In January 2022, McIndoe featured in a profile of the movement for Vice, giving his first media interview while not in character.[15] In May 2022, he was interviewed by 60 Minutes. He started off the interview in character, but later broke character and described the purpose behind creating the satirical movement: "So it's taking this concept of misinformation and almost building a little safe space to come together within it and laugh at it, rather than be scared by it. And accept the lunacy of it all and be a bird truther for a moment in time when everything's so crazy."[16][17] In April 2023 McIndoe held a TED Talk about the movement.[18]

See also


  1. ^ a b Koch, Mitchell (July 18, 2019). "'Every tweet is a lie': Birds Aren't Real campaign spreads message with new Memphis billboard". WREG-TV. Retrieved December 15, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d Lorenz, Taylor (December 9, 2021). "Birds Aren't Real, or Are They? Inside A Gen Z Conspiracy Theory". The New York Times. Retrieved December 16, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Palma, Bethania (November 22, 2021). "What Is the 'Birds Aren't Real' Movement?". Snopes. Retrieved December 16, 2021.
  4. ^ a b Macy, Ivie; Lin, Frances (June 25, 2021). "'Birds Aren't Real' rolling rally makes first stop in Missouri". WGN-TV. Nexstar Media Wire. Retrieved December 16, 2021.
  5. ^ Peake, Eleanor (October 12, 2021). "Birds aren't real and this man wants the world to know". New Statesman. Retrieved December 16, 2021.
  6. ^ Williams, Zoe (April 14, 2022). "'The lunacy is getting more intense': how Birds Aren't Real took on the conspiracy theorists". The Guardian. Retrieved May 6, 2022.
  7. ^ Omar, Elliott (January 10, 2019). "'Birds Aren't Real': Satirical movement captures social media". Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Retrieved December 16, 2021.
  8. ^ Alfonso III, Fernando (November 16, 2018). "Are Birds Actually Government-Issued Drones? So Says a New Conspiracy Theory Making Waves (and Money)". Audubon. Retrieved December 16, 2021.
  9. ^ Hauser, Alisa (November 2, 2018). "What's Up With Those 'Birds Aren't Real' Posters? They Highlight The Post-Truth Era We Live In, Creator Says". Block Club Chicago. Retrieved December 16, 2021.
  10. ^ Lorenz, Taylor (December 12, 2021). How the Birds Aren't Real conspiracy became a 'mass coping mechanism' for Gen Z (video). MSNBC. Retrieved April 19, 2024.
  11. ^ Fish, Tom (January 7, 2022). "Man vomits live on-air during TV interview: 'I'm so nervous'". Newsweek. Retrieved January 9, 2022.
  12. ^ Fasano, Stefano (January 7, 2022). "Watch: 'Birds Aren't Real' founder 'pukes' during live TV interview". The Independent. Retrieved January 9, 2022.
  13. ^ Eck, Kevin (January 7, 2022). "Birds Aren't Real Conspiracy Guy Pulls Apparent Prank on WGN Morning Show". Adweek. Retrieved January 9, 2022.
  14. ^ Berlin, Samantha (January 7, 2022). "'Birds Aren't Real' leader says chaotic morning news interview was 'hit job'". Newsweek. Retrieved January 9, 2022.
  15. ^ "The Truth Behind 'Birds Aren't Real'". Vice. January 10, 2022. Retrieved May 9, 2022.
  16. ^ "The origins of "Birds Aren't Real"". CBS News. May 1, 2022. Retrieved May 9, 2022.
  17. ^ Alfonsi, Sharyn (May 1, 2022). "Parodying conspiracy theories with the Birds Aren't Real movement". CBS News. Retrieved May 9, 2022.
  18. ^ "Birds Aren't Real? How a Conspiracy Takes Flight - Peter McIndoe - TED". TED. Retrieved September 14, 2023.

External links