A wildlife rescue team is urging the public not to use human hair dye on wild birds (or any animal, for that matter) after the discovery of a pink-colored pigeon in New York City on Monday.
According to ABC 7 NY, the bird was in Madison Square Park on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. A good samaritan was reportedly strolling by when they spotted the bright pink pigeon and immediately saw it was in poor health.
The Wild Bird Fund, a nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation and education center based in NYC, quickly determined the bird to be a king pigeon.
“I don’t think we’ve ever really had a pink pigeon come into the clinic, so we were all pretty surprised,” Antonio Sanchez of the Wild Bird Fund told ABC 7. “We were honestly disgusted that someone would do this.”
Experts say someone likely purchased the bird at a poultry market and dyed it pink before releasing it into the wild.
The dangers of this are immense. Not only is this kind of bird meant to be domesticated, but it has never flown and cannot find food or escape predators on its own.
“She shouldn’t be on the streets, she has no survival skills,” Sanchez continued. “She relies on people for everything.”
The rescue team has done its best to care for the ailing bird, even giving it a sweet and fitting pet name, courtesy of its rescuer: Flamingo.
But according to a recent update from the Wild Bird Fund, the pigeon’s condition remains troubling.
“After giving our pink guest time to stabilize, our team tried several methods to remove the dye, which we believe is hair dye, with limited success,” read a tweet from the nonprofit on Thursday. “One problem is that the dye has a strong odor, and we’re concerned for the bird’s respiratory health.”
“Birds are very sensitive to certain fumes, and this one is essentially living inside a cloud,” the team explained. “We’re also concerned about him ingesting the chemical through preening. His condition is weak, and he’s struggling to keep food down.”
It’s unclear why someone dyed the bird pink, but some speculated it was part of a gender reveal gone wrong.
If so, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time. Last year, several pink pigeons were found in New Jersey after a couple deliberately dyed them for a gender reveal party.
Taken to Freedom Farm Animal Rescue in Cedarville, N.J., the pigeons prompted a stern response from that rescue team.
“People actually dyed these pigeons pink and released them for a gender reveal party,” the organization said at the time. “Animals are not props or decorations.”
In this case, it’s still unknown why someone dyed Flamingo, but the group is doing everything possible to nurse him back to health. Currently, they are treating him with heat, oxygen and subcutaneous fluids, as well as special medication to prevent toxins from entering his digestive system.
The rescue team also reminds the public just how serious something like this is.
“PSA: Please never release domestic birds to the wild,” the group tweeted. “Not for weddings, funerals, celebrations, art projects, anything. (We’d hope that ‘don’t dye them’ goes without saying, but … ) They will starve or be preyed on. If you see an all-white pigeon in the wild, or any tame bird standing around looking lost, it needs your help. Please catch the bird and bring it to a pigeon rescue or animal sanctuary near you.”
Even though the team hasn’t been able to remove the dye from Flamingo, they haven’t given up trying.
“Bathing is very stressful on a bird, especially one already weak,” the group shared, “so we have to balance intervention with stability.”
If you or someone you know has witnessed animal abuse, call your local animal control agency as soon as possible or dial 9-1-1 if you’re unfamiliar with local organizations. If both options are unresponsive, call PETA’s hotline at 757-622-7382.
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