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Pigeon post has a long tradition in human history. The first mentioned uses of pigeons as message carriers go back to ancient Egypt and proofs of their usage are found all over Europe, northern Africa and asia from ancient history till now.
Pigeons are used because of their strong natural homing abilities and have been breeded for centuries to optimize these abilities. If they depend on the magnetic field of earth (as is the most common theory), smell (like especially some newer Italian studies suggest), true navigation (using landmarks), possibly even celestial navigation (by the stars) or a mixture of all these is still not finaly solved. Nevertheless I am interested in some alternative birds which I could use as message carriers instead of pidgeons for my fantasy world but I couldn’t find trustworthy informations about which birds have strong natural homing abilities. So my question is:
Are there any other birds instead of pigeons which could be suitable as message carriers and could have been bred like pigeons in our timeline?

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  • $\begingroup$ Related: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/42/… $\endgroup$
    – Ambu
    Jun 15 '20 at 11:25
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    $\begingroup$ Right, related but not the same. The linked question asks specificaly for the feasibility of ravens as carrier birds, I want to know which birds in general could have been bred to message carrying. $\endgroup$ Jun 15 '20 at 11:47
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    $\begingroup$ It also mentions sparrows in one of the answers, but I don't see the information being backed up by references anywhere. $\endgroup$
    – Ambu
    Jun 15 '20 at 11:49
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    $\begingroup$ Nearly any migratory bird will have good navigational skills, your luck may be out if you need a message sending in the winter though! $\endgroup$
    – David258
    Jun 15 '20 at 11:50
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    $\begingroup$ spoons $\endgroup$
    – Kepotx
    Jun 15 '20 at 14:26
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  • Encyclopaedia Britannica, s.v. Homing (animal behaviour):

    Most of the best-known examples of strong homing ability are among birds, particularly racing, or homing, pigeons. Many other birds, especially seabirds and also swallows, are known to have equal or better homing abilities. A Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus), transported in a closed container to a point about 5,500 km (3,400 miles) from its nest, returned to the nest in 12 1/2 days.

    Non-avian animals that have homing abilities include some species of reptiles and fishes. When female loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) emerge from their shells, they imprint on the unique magnetic field signature of the beach on which they hatched and can navigate back to it as adults to lay eggs of their own. In addition, experimental studies have shown that several species of salmon can navigate back to their spawning streams by using their olfactory senses to find the unique chemical signature of the waterway, and juvenile sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka), like loggerhead sea turtles, also appear to navigate using magnetic fields, from the ocean back to their spawning streams.

  • "Homing Ability in Birds", in Nature 170, 237 (1952), https://doi.org/10.1038/170237a0:

    A recent issue of Ibis contains two important articles on the direction-finding abilities of birds (94, No. 2). In the first article G. V. T. Matthews describes an extensive series of homing experiments carried out with 249 lesser black-backed gulls (migratory species) and 91 herring gulls (a restricted nomad), together with twenty other sea birds. On release the lesser black-backed gulls showed a significant homeward orientation which was absent when the sun was obscured by clouds [...]. The herring gulls showed a much lesser ability to 'home', and this could be explained by there being a much smaller proportion of able navigators among them. Matthews also carried out experiments in which the earth's magnetic field was masked by airborne magnets; this in no way affected homing ability.

    In the second article Gustav Kramer describes experiments carried out with starlings and homing pigeons. The starling's ability to reproduce constant compass directions was demonstrated in two ways: first, by using migratory activity as an indicator, the bird tending to take up a constant direction; second, by training the birds to choose one of several (up to twelve) feeders symmetrically distributed around the cage. If the incidence of light were changed by use of a mirror arrangement the direction chosen by the bird changed correspondingly. The sun was shown to be a governing factor, the orientation faculty (in experimental conditions) vanishing if the sun were hidden. The correct direction was reproduced regardless of the time of day.

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Storks -- they are migratory and thus have good navigation, they are large enough to carry decent sized messages, they have some interesting colors ...and - as everyone knows - they already deliver babies.

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I think falcons might work, they are already trained by people, so we would not have to learn how to train them.

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