Pigeons are amongst the most unappreciated, and, in fact, reviled birds on the planet. Called “vermin” and “rats with wings” by their many detractors, the fact of the matter is that pigeons often receive an unusual amount of flack from their human neighbors, even considering the property damage and sanitation concerns for which they are often responsible. What is especially strange, to me, is the massive difference between the ways in which people think of pigeons and doves. While the main differences between these two are semantic (pigeons are rock doves after all), their public images could not be more different.
In captivity, though, doves are often dealt an even worse hand than their “pigeon” relatives. The dove release. We’ve all heard of or seen this practice in action. At weddings, funerals, or other gatherings, snow white doves are released in a symbolic display of peace, hope, or freedom. The reality is far more grim. Captively bred and raised birds are ill-equipped to face the wild and often succumb to predators within hours or days of their release. Domestic doves are sometimes released at very young ages. There is rarely a realistic expectation that they will be returning home. More reputable “dove releases” actually use homing pigeons which have been bred for their white color. They tend to be much more survivable, but the risks of releasing captive-raised animals means that they are still quite likely to perish.
Now, birds raised for this purpose seem to be facing a brand new hazard. A young king pigeon, nick-named “Flamingo” by his rescuers, was found in New York City. Flamingo was dyed pink using a concoction that rescuers believe may have been derived from hair dye. Flamingo was a baby, barely old enough to fly. He was found in a New York City park in a state of malnourishment and was immediately recognized as in need of care due to his artificial pink color.
Despite the efforts of the Wild Bird Fund, which attempted to remove the dye and minimize the effects of the dye’s fumes, Flamingo died shortly after being rescued. It is currently unknown why he was dyed pink, but the dye itself is believed to be the culprit behind his death.
So why was Flamingo dyed pink? There is a troubling theory going around which may answer this question. Some speculate that Flamingo may have been used to commemorate a “gender reveal” party. Gender reveals have made national news multiple times over the last several years for the extreme measures that some undertake in order to commemorate these events. Wildfires and deaths are amongst the most extreme examples. Considering the fact that Flamingo was a domestic king pigeon, it is likely that he was deliberately dyed and released, so the gender reveal theory does make sense.
If Flamingo was used for this purpose, it leads one to wonder whether the deliberate poisoning of a baby bird is really the right way to commemorate a new addition to the family. As a matter of fact, is the abandonment of a captive animal which is unlikely to survive in the wild really a fitting way to celebrate anything?