Pigeons with hats: A cruel joke shows up in Reno

Published: Jan. 16, 2020 at 6:06 PM PST
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It caused a stir last month when pigeons with tiny cowboy hats glued to their heads showed up in Las Vegas. People were variously amused and repelled.

Apparently there's no copyright on twisted humor.

Someone up here took note and in a decision that showed a measure of casual cruelty, but little originality decided to do the same..

City Manager Sabra Newby spotted a bird with a sombrero stuck to its head while out on a ride-along with city parking enforcement near Sutro and 7th. She took a picture and tweeted it out Wednesday.

Who would do such a thing? It was a widely shared question in response to the story on our Facebook page.

Well, our newsroom received a call from a man who said he was the responsible party. He said he was puzzled and outraged at the reaction he was reading saying no one cared about these birds until he "gave them identity" by gluing a hat to their heads.

For proof he directed us to his Facebook page, assuring us he's the man in the picture with the birds. He told us at that point he had done this to seven individual birds.

On the Facebook page he invites others to join his pigeons with hats group.

All of this done apparently in the name of humor.

Some don't think it's so funny.

"I don't know how you'd look at yourself," says Jane Burnham of the Lahontan Audubon Society. "I feel disgusted that someone would treat an animal badly. There's no excuse for torturing."

Pigeons don't get a lot of respect and many of us view them as pests, But Burnham says we should modify those views saying they are highly intelligent, trainable and have long been used by us for various tasks and sport.

Gluing something to their heads--she says--is a death sentence. Pigeons, she says, have monocular vision. It's why they bob their heads. So they can see.

So aside from the injury and toxicity of the glue, it impairs their vision making it difficult for them to eat or feed their young. They mate for life--by the way--and support their young for as long as two months.

All that said, however, pigeons fall into a legal gray area, neither domestic nor protected wildlife.

No state or federal law protects them we're told by the state Division of Wildlife though they gave us a statement calling this treatment "ethically and morally wrong."

That reaction was echoed by Washoe County Regional Animal Services Director Shyanne Shull who said her agency is monitoring the situation and "finds the practice of affixing any objects on wild birds disturbing and inhumane."

She added anyone with information should call 322-3647 or 3-1-1 and they will "investigate and work with appropriate authorities."