A pink pigeon that had been dyed pink and rescued in Madison Square Park on Monday is in “delicate critical” condition, according to experts at the bird rehabilitation center caring for it.
“We’re concerned,” said Rita McMahon, director of the Wild Bird Fund, where the bird is recuperating. McMahon noted that the pigeon still smells strongly of perfume, despite days of convalescence.
Earlier this week, her team became alarmed when the pigeon began vomiting repeatedly. They believe this was a reaction to hair dye, which they now suspect as the cause of the bird's pink hue.
The pigeon has likely been ingesting the chemical through preening, said McMahon, adding that birds preen “about 30% of their waking hours.”
Dyes are also destructive to feathers, making it nearly impossible for birds to stay warm and shed water.
As the week progressed, McMahon said her team was surprised by the extent to which the pigeon had been “poisoned.”
The bird, which has since been named Flamingo, is receiving oxygen, heat and subcutaneous fluids. Efforts to remove the dye are on pause until the bird is stronger.
“ He takes your heart away,” said McMahon. “It's so cruel what they did. It maybe was totally ignorant on their part, but it amounts to animal cruelty.”
She did not know who stained the bird pink, or why, but said her best guess – which was shared by pigeon advocates with whom she’d consulted – is that it was used in a gender reveal party.
Carlos Rodriguez, who rescued the bird, concurred with the guess.
He initially thought the bird was a parrot.
“I’ve never seen a pink pigeon,” he said. “And I’ve been rescuing animals all my life.”
Rodriguez is a professional dog walker who saves some of the city’s animals in his spare time. In the past two decades, he has cared for hawks, squirrels and parrots, but said pigeons comprise the bulk of his rescues because people don’t like them. “People run them over intentionally,” he said.
After he rescued Flamingo, he took the bird uptown in a taxi.
When asked if the bird would make a full recovery, McMahon said she was “guarded” about the prognosis.
Her hope is that Flamingo can recover and be transferred to a sanctuary, where it will receive regular meals, be surrounded by fellow king pigeons, and have freedom to fly in a space protected from predators. However, she was less confident about this future than she had been earlier in the week.
She said that anyone who sees a bird that appears tame and lost can bring it to the Wild Bird Fund or the Animal Care Centers of New York City.
Last year alone, the Wild Bird Fund cared for 55 king pigeons and nearly 5,000 feral pigeons.
“Any bird that can be approached and picked up needs help,” the Wild Bird Fund added in a statement.
Both McMahon and Rodriguez expressed dismay that people were using dye on pigeons.
“They’re not props,” said Rodriguez. “Animals have feelings and life and people discard them. You should’ve seen this poor animal, how she was shaking on the ground.”
McMahon said if there is any comforting element to this story, it's how much attention it has generated, both locally and internationally. McMahon said her office was fielding international requests for information about Flamingo, and that it had never been so busy with media calls.
"We want people to think about what they do with an animal," she said, adding that white pigeons should not be released at weddings or used in gender reveal parties. "So it's a good thing that it's out there."
This story has been updated.