April Fools' Day Birds
Over the years a number of April Fools hoaxes have involved birds, and in particular penguins. Here are some of our favourites:
Declassified on April 1st, government files revealed plans from the 1950s for a chicken powered nuclear bomb code named Blue Peacock. The plan involved storing a number of nuclear mines in Germany that would be detonated in the event of an invasion from the Soviet Union.
To solve the problem of the mines’ electronic circuitry getting too cold to work in the winter it was proposed that live chickens be sealed inside the casing with enough food and water for them to survive for a week. Their body heat would be sufficient to keep the mine’s components at a working temperature.
Although two prototypes of Blue Peacock were constructed the project never went ahead as hiding nuclear weapons in an allied country was seen as politically flawed. *
The Sun reported that a cute penguin had waddled out of the River Thames and was seen pottering about near the Tate Modern gallery on London’s South Bank.
The paper claimed it was the first time a penguin had been spotted by the Thames and came just weeks after Wally the Whale had become stranded in the river and sadly died.
Experts said the penguin may have been released into UK waters by fishermen who accidentally snared him and marine biologist Lil Faroop told the paper, “It looks like a Jackass. They feed on sprats and fly through the water at five miles (eight kilometres) per hour. They have a donkey-like bray.”
A trailer for an upcoming BBC film, Miracles of Evolution, purported to show a flock of penguins flying over icebergs in Antarctica.
The footage narrated by Terry Jones of Monty Python fame fooled many with the Daily Mirror, one of the first papers to run the story, having to publish an explanation to its readers who were waiting for the forthcoming documentary to be broadcast.
The film was made using footage of real penguins filmed in the Antarctic combined with animated flying penguins while Terry Jones was filmed in a studio. It was produced to promote BBC iPlayer.
Building on the work of B.F. Skinner, Google apparently figured out that pigeons could be used to calculate the value of web pages quicker than computer algorithms to improve the speed and accuracy of its search results.
Google claimed that by collecting flocks of pigeons in dense clusters, they could process search queries at speeds superior to traditional search engines with pigeons literally moving pages up the pecking order.
A pack of pigeon-harvesting dogs (PHDs) collected the pigeons from city parks and plazas before being assigned to data coops to begin their work.
The Daily Mail reported that an animal sanctuary in North Yorkshire had trained its owls to deliver mail. With convincing pictures the paper claimed that the development could revolutionize the postal system.
Experts at Kirkleatham Owl Centre introduced the feathered posties after budget cuts forced it to reduce its staff numbers leaving a backlog of mail.
Eight of the centre’s 45 owls had been trained to deliver post just like the birds do at Harry Potter’s fictional school, Hogwarts.
The denizens of East London give their reactions to a penguin being spotted on the streets of Dalston.
Google was at it again; this time with a prank inviting advertisers to buy ads on real birds. Upon logging into Google Adwords they asked you to “Check our Google Adbirds, a new ad format that takes your campaign to new heights by placing ads on real birds. Select your bird and write your ad. Then you’re ready for it to fly!”
Advertisers then had the option of choosing from a variety of birds (sparrows – small, quick and efficient, ducks – available at most parks and community areas, penguins – best for cold arctic regions, limited location as they can’t fly) on which to place their ads.
Once you had written your ad copy the bird would be sent for review but may not fly until the review was complete. Google also confirmed that no birds would be harmed using this ad format.
Torquay’s Living Coasts reported that one of its penguins had laid a golden egg. Yoyo, a macaroni penguin, apparently had visitors flocking to the coastal zoo to see the rare egg which the zoo claimed had occurred due to the penguin consuming trace amounts of gold, brass or copper.
Living Coasts Operations Manager Clare Rugg said: “Sadly, the egg is definitely not made of solid gold! It is a first egg, so it may not be fertile – we shall have to wait and see. The metal in the shell can make it harder for the chick to break its way out of the egg, so we will need to keep a close eye on this one.”
This website reported that a giant penguin had been found in Antarctica by a team of explorers. The species named Palaeeudyptes ordyslailafois believed to be a distant relative of Palaeeudyptes klekowskiiwhose fossil was unearthed by researchers from La Plata Museum in Argentina.
Dr. Berlin, who led the expedition, said of the discovery, “We may finally have an answer to that age-old question of why polar bears don’t eat penguins. It’s not because they can’t get the wrappers off but because they decided to move to the other side of the planet away from a potential predator.”
*This is not actually an April Fool with a spokesman for the National Archive explaining that the Civil Service does not do jokes.