Now that Game of Thrones is back this week, we need to sort out some of the players who you may not know as well yet. Who are the "little birds" mentioned over and over again in Game of Thrones? The "little birds" are essentially a network of spies who service Lord Varys, the former Master of Whisperers in King's Landing. Since his leave, some now serve Qyburn, the former Maester, who is now the Master of Whisperers in King's Landing (talk about some crazy turnover). Though it seemed that all the "little birds" consisted only of poor children and beggars (some of whom are also rumored to have had their tongues cut out so as not to share any of their secrets), there are some adults in this group. Fun fact: they are referred to as "little birds" because of the saying "A little birdie told me . . ."
The "little birds" came about a long time ago, through the friendship of Illyrio Mopatis and Lord Varys. Remember Illyrio? We met him in season one; he's the creep who arranged Daenerys's marriage to Khal Drogo and looked after Daenerys and Viserys during their exile from King's Landing. Anyway, before Lord Varys was the ultimate whispering weirdo, he started out as a thief and had to flee to a place called Pentos, where he met Illyrio. Together they formed an alliance and would spy on smaller thieves and steal from them, and then Illyrio would help the victims of the theft for a reward. Kind of genius, right?
Varys eventually got sick of stealing and began teaching his "mice" how to do so. He taught little orphaned boys and girls, usually the smallest, who were quiet and quick. They learned how to climb walls, slip down chimneys, and even read. Eventually Varys explained to Illyrio that secrets were actually far more valuable than riches, and the "mice" began stealing letters and ledgers.
Word eventually got out to King's Landing of Varys's talents, and King Aerys, who was losing trust in his own closest allies, called upon him to serve as the Master of Whisperers at King's Landing. Even though Illyrio and Varys were no longer in the same city, they continued to work together through his network of "little birds."
Moral of the story is basically never trust Lord Varys.