In my story, flying creatures rule the sky. These creatures are usually tiny like an eagle or a vulture compared to huge (cumulus/cumulonimbus) clouds and these creatures always hunt and hide as groups.

  1. Can clouds be used as their hiding places?
  2. Is it possible to detect them if they are hiding in such huge clouds with our current technology?
  3. Is there any way for these creatures to remain undetectable even when our technology is used?

picture of different types of clouds; cumulus is below 6,000 feet and cumulonimbus is near ground to above 50,000 feet

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    $\begingroup$ It's nice that you are removing the standard "add image description" text when inserting images, but please try to summarize in a few words what your pictures show. People using a screenreader will likely be less frustrated when there is nothing compared with the relatively long standard text, but it still makes it a lot easier for them if you add a simple description of the image as they will be able to know what you are trying to show with the image. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Jul 9, 2018 at 13:20
  • $\begingroup$ You should read Airborn by Kenneth Oppel. He has a creature similar to this. $\endgroup$
    – Anoplexian
    Jul 9, 2018 at 16:23
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    $\begingroup$ Radar can easily see through clouds. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2018 at 20:17
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    $\begingroup$ Radar is often used to study bird migrations. If your birds are small, they will tend to aggregate into flocks - which can be tracked ion radar even tho' the individual birds are apparently too small. $\endgroup$
    – RAC
    Jul 10, 2018 at 8:21
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    $\begingroup$ @RAC If you can answer the question please write an answer so it can be vetted by the community. $\endgroup$
    – pipe
    Jul 10, 2018 at 8:37

3 Answers 3


1.Can clouds be used as their hiding places?

It depends on what is used to look in the sky. If we are limited to visible radiation, a cloud can be a good hiding spot. To certain radar, instead, clouds are transparent. Thus they will offer no hiding.

2.Is it possible to detect them if they are hiding in such huge clouds with our current technology?

Yes, as long as the cloud is transparent to it (i.e. Radar R band)

3.Is there any way for these creatures to remain undetectable even when our technology is used?

Against radar a stealth shape, minimizing radar cross-section, would help reducing visibility. Another help could come from their size: if they are small enough, the radar wave will not see them. But be aware, if they are too small it's hard for them to rule the sky.

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    $\begingroup$ What is "R" band? I was trying to figure out the rough wavelength to find out if you might be able to see a bird-size object using it, but can find only a passing mention of it being 1.70 to 2.60 GHz... If so, then 15cm objects would likely be close to invisible, no? Clearly, eagles and vultures would be large enough, but smaller birds might not be. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Jul 9, 2018 at 14:10
  • $\begingroup$ @David Check out these two Wiki articles on Radio Spectrum and Radar. As long as the target is greater than twice the wavelength, it should be detectable, so yes 15cm would be cutting it close for R band. Weather radars start detecting clouds and water vapor around K band (18-27 GHz). Many systems will combine multiple radars at different frequencies to get a more complete image as well. So L. Dutch is definitely right that birds can be detected - it's just a question of on which frequencies. $\endgroup$
    – David K
    Jul 9, 2018 at 14:26
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    $\begingroup$ @David don't forget this is 15cm in the correct dimension. Even an eagle side on (ie at a low altitude) would potentially be invisible. $\endgroup$
    – UKMonkey
    Jul 9, 2018 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidK That is, in fact, the source of my "passing mention". I can find no mention of R band on en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radar#Frequency_bands and on the Radio Spectrum page, it's one one table, but it links to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UBV_photometric_system which also does not mention R band. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Jul 9, 2018 at 14:51
  • $\begingroup$ would infrared help as well, if these creatures are warm blooded or would the cloud blot that out? $\endgroup$
    – ironduke97
    Jul 10, 2018 at 2:43

My answer will focus only on your first question: Can clouds be used as hiding places?

Yes, but not always, and not reliably, because...

Clouds don't last forever.

Cumulonimbus (thunderstorm) clouds build and then dissipate. If you're trying to hide yourself in one, sooner or later your camouflage will vanish from around you.

Thunderstorm clouds aren't fun to fly in

I'm a pilot, thunderstorms are Not Okay to fly in. In their official publications the FAA says things like:

...extremely hazardous...

...almost impossible to hold a constant altitude...

...attempting to maneuver greatly increases stresses...

...penetration of any thunderstorm can lead to an aircraft accident and fatalities...

What the...hail?

That's right! Thunderstorms also feature hail. Hailstones have killed sheep before. Sheep. If it can kill a sheep it can kill an eagle (or equivalent eagle-sized flying creature with hollow bones)

Depending on what latitude your story takes place in, there's also ice!

That's right, in the wintertime you won't get cumulonimbus clouds. Instead, you get to deal with freezing rain, which will form on the wings of your flying creatures, adding weight and hindering their ability to fly.

  • $\begingroup$ I wonder if some dragon or bird-like creature hiding inside a cloud will cause the vapour to condense and thus cause the cloud to begin falling away, in the form of rain? I'm not sure. But I think airplanes sometimes let this happen somehow. $\endgroup$ Jul 10, 2018 at 8:31
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure most of these apply to intelligent birds in the clouds. Your points about dissipation and ice definitely does, but there's a huge difference between even a large bird and a small inflexible plane when it comes to navigating inside a cloud. And hail is deadly because it has time to reach some speed but that doesn't happen until some time after formation - these birds will be where hail is formed. $\endgroup$
    – pipe
    Jul 10, 2018 at 8:44
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the point about hailstones being deadly to sheep. I've always wondered why sheep, with their naturally white fluffy appearance, don't hide in clouds more often. Now I know. $\endgroup$ Jul 10, 2018 at 13:35
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    $\begingroup$ @RyanfaeScotland Obligatory Monty Python quote: "Notice that they do not so much fly as plummet." youtube.com/watch?v=Vkw2DdoskPY $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Jul 10, 2018 at 14:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Wilson - By definition the vapor has already condensed (and sometimes also frozen). That's what makes it a cloud. $\endgroup$
    – Steve V.
    Jul 10, 2018 at 21:04


Ok, before I list my sources, I need you to do these following steps. I cannot guarantee your safety if you do not follow them:

  1. Go to the kitchen (or grocery store)
  2. Get a tinfoil
  3. Make yourself a hat
  4. Wear tinfoil hat before reading any further

You can use infrared filter to spot many hidden objects in the sky as shown in this following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnYvfZTN2jo

So, to answer your specific questions:

  1. Can clouds be used as their hiding places?

Yes, but only for naked eye. These creatures will not fool simple infrared filter on a camera. (Strong assumption made here: These creatures emit heat)

  1. Is it possible to detect them if they are hiding in such huge clouds with our current technology?

Yes, totally. Any person walking the Earth can spot them with relatively cheap accesories

  1. What is the optimum body shape for them to be able to hide in this way?

Look as "cloudy" as possible. But that does not fool anyone: Dragon from the question caught ALIVE on vieo!!!11!!!11!!

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsP9zkweVy4 , edit mine. And I do not even care at this point about that video's upload date...

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    $\begingroup$ +1 For the tinfoil hat and great video! I just knew it... $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Jul 9, 2018 at 17:12
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    $\begingroup$ Can you still get foil made of tin? That's how the gubmint gets you!! They took away our tin foil so we can't make our hats!! :P $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2018 at 19:39
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    $\begingroup$ There was an MIT study that found that aluminum foil hats of various forms concentrated radiation at some frequencies. Evaluate your threat. $\endgroup$ Jul 9, 2018 at 22:05
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    $\begingroup$ I actually passed a woman in the street the other day with two kitchen pots on her head, one fitting inside the other. My wife told me that she was worried about the Government reading her thoughts, but wouldn't let me go back to explain to her that aluminium pots are not magnetic and therefore not effective at blocking EM signals and she should switch to Stainless Steel. Are we really sure aluminium foil does what we think it does in signal blocking? Where are the studies? $\endgroup$
    – Tim B II
    Jul 9, 2018 at 23:26
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    $\begingroup$ @TimBII, wrap your mobile in aluminum and call it... check it if it rings or not $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jul 10, 2018 at 12:58

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