Last weekend some mysterious pigeon-parrot hybrids were spotted in Queens, but experts now tell us these are just your garden variety rock pigeons with some colorful dye applied. Next they'll tell us this isn't a photo of Anthony Weiner astride a pegasus! Below are theories and thoughts from a birder, a pigeon fancier, and the NYC Audubon.
New York City birder Yojimbot tells us the pigeon "has been dyed... impossible to say with what but I'm guessing some vegetable based dye, because anything else would affect the flight of the bird. I've heard of similar things in Europe and India for religious ceremonies."
Onorio Catenacci, a pigeon fancier from Michigan, tells us the process is painless: "I've seen pigeons with dyed feathers before; it doesn't hurt the birds at all any more than a human being dyeing his or her hair would hurt them. The feathers will stay dyed until the bird molts them." As to why someone would dye a pigeon's feathers—"it might be that they just like the way the dyes look or it may be that they're trying to make their pigeons easier to identify from the ground. There are lots of pigeons that are around in colors that occur naturally; if you dye a pigeon's feathers, you can easily tell which bird is yours from the ground (with field glasses of course)."
Tod Winston at the NYC Audubon agrees the pigeons were dyed, but believes the process is harmful to the pigeons and any predators that may get a taste: "These are pigeons that have had some of their feathers dyed or painted. Though they are pretty, it is most likely not good for the birds; birds preen their feathers and will likely ingest the paint (which might be toxic) when they do so. The paint will also make the pigeons more obvious to predators—and if they are killed and eaten by predators such as our native red-tailed hawks, the hawks will themselves ingest the paint and possibly be harmed by it."