Head to Head: Broadband versus Pigeon Power

The aim of the comparative review was to see which travels faster: video uploads by rural broadband or by pigeon post.

Starting at a common point at a farmhouse in Beverley, Yorkshire, a 300MB video was sent via t’internet, as they call it oop North. A memory card containing the same video was strapped to the leg of Rory the pigeon.

Before the test his owner predicted: “Our Rory will crap all over broadband – he craps all over everything else so I don’t see why that would change.”

As the video upload was launched, so was Rory. Up he flew, circled around, got his bearings and headed south towards the target site in Lincolnshire.

80 minutes later, the homing bird arrived at his loft. A quick check of the broadband showed it had only managed to upload 72MB, 24 percent of the video.

With the current emphasis on green technologies, especially in the IT sector, the introduction of livestock could be seen as attractive. Pigeon post would substantially reduce the carbon footprint of communications systems.

If pigeons were to replace broadband, it could also benefit local economies. Some of the best pigeon fanciers are found in areas of high unemployment. Whereas, in the south-east, London in particular, the art is virtually dying out so a transfer of skills could offer a financial boost to areas north of the Watford Gap.

Geordie Lofthouse has bred pigeons in his back yard in Gateshead for 20 unemployed years. He admitted to having his doubts: “Wey ah divven na if ar could be a marra wi a softie soothern git, like. Ha wad ah unnerstond wat ’is plummy gob was sayin’, ya kna?”

Despite this, protocols could perhaps be established based on open standards.

Tech details:



Pigeon post (Rory)*


Broadband (Rural)


*Not including uploading or downloading times to the memory card

Can pigeon post replace rural broadband?


  • A homing pigeon can be bought for £20 whereas modem prices start from £25.
  • Four weeks of pigeon food costs £9 and four weeks of broadband costs around £20
  • A pigeon is a friend for life while a modem just lurks in a corner and flashes in a bad-tempered kind of way
  • Lifespan for a pigeon is 25 years. Modems live about five years.



  • Pigeons can fall prey to hawks and hunters. Broadband is relatively reliable and, properly firewalled, fairly secure.
  • In the mating season pigeons can be unreliable whereas modems rarely mate in captivity.



Pigeons seem like a good substitute for broadband but there are limits. When it comes to short messages like email, pmail would not be as efficient. Also, pigeons have to be transported from their loft to the transmission point. One overriding advantage of a pigeon is that at the end of its useful life it makes a great pie, unlike a modem.


Review sponsored by Pigeon Fancier & Whippet Worrier World.