You can see a lot of unexpected things walking down the street. If you were walking down the street in Reno, Nevada, for example, you might think your eyes were playing tricks on you if you saw a pigeon wearing a tiny sombrero.
One of those desert mirages, right? Well, not exactly.
That Reno pigeon isn’t the only one in Nevada who has been seen wearing some unexpected headwear. A month earlier, a number of pigeons were spotted around Las Vegas wearing tiny cowboy hats.
It sounds adorable and kind of hilarious, or at least Reno’s city manager Sabra Newby thought so. She had a rude awakening when she shared two photos of the pigeons on Instagram and was slammed by animal rights activists.
In the case of the Las Vegas pigeons, one who had the tiny hat glued to his head died. Now activists are trying to get the word out that regardless of how it looks, it’s no laughing matter.
If you’re walking down the street, you probably wouldn’t stop twice if you happened to see a pigeon. If that pigeon happened to be wearing a hat, it might give you some pause. That was the case when Reno’s city manager Sabra Newby spotted a pigeon wearing a sombrero.
If you’re wondering how anyone managed to get birds to wear tiny hats, you’re not alone. That’s part of why Sabra posted the photo. It turns out that the pigeon Sabra saw wasn’t the first to be seen wearing a tiny hat.
In Las Vegas, a number of pigeons have been seen wearing cowboy hats. They started popping up in mid-December. While they’re not the same hats, the proximity of the sightings has led many people to believe the same person or people are responsible.
The internet seriously got a kick out of the cowboy pigeons. There are people who will spend the rest of their days with a cowboy pigeon tattoo gracing their bodies. It’s a serious commitment to something funny, but it might be tinged with regret when you learn the practice is actually cruel.
Staff at animal rescue Lofty Hopes decided to try to track down the pigeons and see if they could remove the hats. Because the birds were spotted wearing the hats for several days, staff determined the hats had been glued to the pigeons’ heads. They worked on trapping the pigeons, but it wasn’t easy.
They christened the pigeons Billie the Pidge, Cluck Norris, and Coolamity Jane. Eventually, they captured Billie the Pidge and Cluck Norris. Once the birds were caught, staff members and volunteers were able to assess the damage to the pigeons.
Billie allowed them to start removing the hat. As they did, it was clear how much the glue had damaged the bird and how inhumane it actually was. Cluck allowed them to do the same, and the damage to him was even worse.
Sadly, today there was a new development that Lofty Hopes shared. “The staff and volunteers at Lofty Hopes are saddened to report that Billie The Pidge, one of the Cowboy Pigeons in the red hats, has passed away of an undetected illness,” they shared on Instagram.
“The hat could have interfered with her being able to dislodge small insects from under it, and pigeons are very active preeners (groomers), not just for themselves, but for the others in their flocks,” they continued. “The fumes of the glue could have slowly poisoned her. Pigeons have a very fragile respiratory system. So many things could have gone wrong.”
Now, Lofty Hopes is hoping to track down Reno’s copycat sombrero bird. They’re off to a good start, as they found the culprit of the sombreros. “David John Rambeau has admitted to being the copy cat gluing sombreros to pigeons in Reno,” they shared.
“He said he glued hats to 7 pigeons there. We have a follower/volunteer in Reno who located the pigeon that was spotted and shared on Twitter and will be making efforts to capture him/her.”
Sabra is doing her part to spread the word about the birds. “While quirky or fun, it’s still inhumane,” she told KOLO. “The birds suffered when this exact thing happened last year in Las Vegas. One of them recently died. We don’t want copycats.”
“Reno cares about our animals,” Sabra added. “They need protection and don’t need to become a punchline.” Reno residents are encouraged to call 775-322-3644 if they spot any pigeons in hats, although it seems there’s only one in a sombrero.
In the meantime, Lofty Hopes is continuing to track Coolamity Jane. Though they have yet to trap her, they have kept a consistent eye on her. They hope to be able to get the hat off her as soon as possible.
We all wish the tiny bird hat trend could have been one that just brought joy. Sadly, it’s turned into a call to action to save these pigeons. Hopefully, the rest of the birds get a happier ending than Billie the Pidge did.