Counterterrorism officials were called in after worried locals found a bird wearing a metal band reading "Israel."
Since the their rupture in the wake of the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, Turkish-Israeli relations have been limping along, taking some hopeful steps forward and more worrying steps backwards. One of the problematic side effects of Turkey-Israel ties being stuck in the muck of mutual recrimination is that this state of affairs only strengthens a tendency among the Turkish public -- and, occasionally, Turkish officials -- to connect Israel to outlandish conspiracy theories. In recent years, for example, Turkish Islamists claimed a three-day heavy metal music festival in Istanbul was actually organized by a Mossad front and the head of Turkey's Higher Education Board (YOK) suggested that genetically modified tomato seeds bought from Israel could be "programmed" to harm Turks, if not destroy the whole Turkish nation.
Now, farmers in southeast Turkey appear to have uncovered the latest Israeli plot against Turkey, one that turns tiny birds into flapping spies. As the Turkish daily HaberTurk first reported, a group of villagers near the city of Gaziantep discovered a small dead bird (from a breed known as the European Bee Eater) with a metal band around its leg that read "Israel." As if that wasn't suspicious enough, the bird had what seemed to be a very enlarged nostril, leading one local official to suggest that perhaps the bird had been implanted with some kind of microchip or spying device. Although counterterrorism officials were called in at one point, local agriculture officials examined the colorful bird thoroughly and decided it posed no threat to national security. According to officials with Israel's Society for the Protection of Nature, the suspect bird had been banded some four years earlier as part of a routine effort to track the migration patterns of the European Bee Eater.