ANKARA -- In the latest bizarre espionage claim leveled at Israeli intelligence services, Turkish authorities claimed that a dead bird found by a Turkish farmer in a field may have been conducting covert surveillance for Israel.
The dead Merops apiaster bird -- commonly known as the European Bee-Eater -- was discovered by the Turkish farmer wearing a band on its leg with the word "Israel" written on it.
The bird also had "unusually large nostrils," leading to speculation that it was implanted with a surveillance device and sent to Turkey on an aerial espionage mission.
The Israeli news website Ynet News, citing Turkish media, reported that the bird's remains were handed over to the Turkish Agriculture Ministry, which then turned them over to Ankara's security services.
News of the feathered arrest spread to Israel, where the Society of Protection of Nature was eventually alerted. The group confirmed that the bird was banded about four years ago for research purposes.
"The Turkish authorities can rest easy -- it's not a spy," Yoav Pearlman of the Israeli Birdwatching Center told Ynet News on Tuesday.
The bizarre development follows a series of weird espionage allegations leveled at Israel by Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in recent years.
Saudi Arabia announced in January 2011 that it "detained" a bird wearing an Israeli identification band. The bird was carrying a GPS transmitter from Tel Aviv University.
Saudi authorities moved quickly to condemn the feathered sleuth for being part of a "Zionist espionage plot."
And in 2010, an Egyptian governor said it was "not out of the question" that Israel's Mossad intelligence agency could be behind a series of deadly shark attacks in the Red Sea.
"What is being said about the Mossad throwing the deadly shark [in the sea] to hit tourism in Egypt is not out of the question, but it needs time to confirm," South Sinai Governor Mohamed Abdel Fadil Shousha said at the time.
Iran also has accused Israel of using pigeons and squirrels to spy on high-security nuclear facilities in the past.