For several days, multicolored-cowboy-hat-wearing pigeons have been spotted strutting the streets in Las Vegas. No one knows who’s outfitting the birds.
Vegas resident Bobby Lee uploaded a video of two birds wearing the miniature hats — one red and one pink — to Facebook last week. The “birds have hats on, bro,” he exclaims in the clip. The post, which was shared extensively, quickly made rounds on the Internet and landed with Mariah Hillman, co-founder of a local pigeon rescue called Lofty Hopes.
Hillman, 47, and her 30-year-old daughter’s search for the birds took off swiftly. They began by canvassing known areas, where they handed out business cards and told passersby, “If you see them, feed them. We’re only three miles away, and we can get there pretty quick.”
Since then, Hillman told The Washington Post, the duo received two leads each day from people who spotted the pigeons, often attaching video proof.
Hillman was at home, cleaning bird cages, when she first got word of a sighting.
It was too late to go looking, but the following morning, as soon as Hillman pulled into the gated community, she saw the red-hatted pigeon, perched to the right. She slowed her car and said, “Howdy partner.”
“He was shaking his head, trying to get the hat off. It’s definitely glue,” she told The Post of the adhesive used on the bird. “We either have to molt it off, which will take time, or have it removed.”
Hillman continued, “The only thing that wouldn’t harm them is oil, which then makes him a grease pigeon — like the ones around McDonalds.”
Either way, the pigeon must stay with Hillman for a bit. During the two-hour chase, the former animal rights activist spotted a hawk circling the area, which she called “concerning.”
The whodunit piece of the mystery remains.
Although people have speculated the hats originated with an attendee of the National Finals Rodeo, which is currently taking place in the city, the association has denied involvement, according to the New York Times, and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said it “does not appear to be a police matter.”
For now, Hillman is focused on tracking down the birds and ensuring their safety.
So far, she and her daughter took in Cluck Norris, who sports a red cowboy hat, and Coo-lamity James, who wears a pink one. Others tipsters mentioned gray- and brown-capped birds, though Hillman has yet to find them.
The New York Times interviewed a Cornell University ornithologist, Charles Walcott, who specializes in pigeons.
“I enjoyed the video,” Walcott told the Times. “I just thought those pigeons with hats were cute.”
Walcott also said he isn’t worried about the pigeons, who are acting pretty normally and don’t seem to be distressed. The hats are “certainly light enough,” he told the Times. “They look like happy pigeons to me. It is hard to know, of course, because they will not talk to us.”
Pigeons, Hillman said, have a lot going for them: They mate for life, the males and females both produce milk and feed their young, they can live up to 20 years in a family unit, and they are one of 10 species that can recognize themselves in a mirror.
“They’re a great first pet,” she added, noting that they have bendable, and not sharp, beaks. “When we needed pigeons during wartime, they were regarded as heroes. Now that we don’t need them, they’ve become vermin or pests. We do that with a lot of things in this society, and that’s not right.”