It started with a viral Facebook video and morphed into memes and widespread video coverage.
You’re probably thinking that a pigeon in a cowboy hat is cute and it’s a funny thought to imagine people perching tiny accessories on their bird’s head.
It may be both cute and funny, but experts say it’s not safe for the pigeons.
Birds are fragile and any disruption to their natural environment puts them in danger of becoming prey to predators or suffering injuries that can kill them.
If you’ve already seen the video, you might be interested in finding out more.
If not, skip hunting it down on the internet and read this instead.
The Story of the Cowboy Pigeons
In December of 2019, three pigeons wearing tiny cowboy hats were discovered wandering around Las Vegas.
They were videotaped by Bobby Lee and posted on Facebook, where the video quickly went viral.
It seemed that viewers were thoroughly delighted with the cuteness overload of birds in hats.
That’s when Lofty Hopes, a Las Vegas bird rescue center, intervened.
Experts quickly took the pigeons to the center, where they began to care for them.
It turns out the pigeons weren’t simply wearing hats.
Those miniature cowboy hats were glued to the birds’ heads.
One of the pigeons died as a result of the hat and the others needed ongoing care as they recovered from having the hats removed.
The person responsible for the hats was never located.
Why Pigeons Shouldn’t Wear Hats
While the Cowboy Pigeons certainly took the internet by storm, there are many reasons why it’s better to try to help keep these situations from happening again, rather than laughing and sharing the video.
Because of a pigeon’s bodily structure, lifestyle habits and instincts, putting a hat on them is actually dangerous and can result in their death.
When one of the Cowboy Pigeons died, experts at Lofty Hopes deduced that it was likely due to inhaling the fumes that came from the glue used to affix the hat to the bird’s head.
Those fumes harmed the pigeon’s fragile respiratory system, eventually causing it to shut down, resulting in the bird’s death.
However, fumes from the glue aren’t the only danger posed by the hats.
Pigeons, like most birds, rely on their peripheral vision.
In the case of pigeons, they have 340-degree vision.
But when they’re wearing a hat, the vision is interrupted making the birds more prone to the risk of attack by a predator that they won’t be able to see coming.
With the hat blocking their view of movement around them, they are more susceptible to danger and aren’t able to detect it as quickly.
The Cowboy Pigeons were observed trying to shake the hats off their heads, an instinct that would allow them to see properly once again.
The glue used to adhere the hats to the pigeons’ heads can also damage their feathers and skin.
Some reports indicate that the birds were wearing the hats for several weeks, which proves just how strong the glue is. With continued exposure, the glue can lead to feather loss and skin injuries.
This puts the pigeons at risk of infection, further injury and even death if not properly cared for.
Then there’s also the pain involved with removing the hat and the glue from the bird’s head as well as the trauma of having to be handled by humans – something the average feral pigeon is not used to.
This article has been reviewed for accuracy by our qualified veterinarian Cristina.
This is part of our commitment to providing you with the most trustworthy veterinarian advice for your pigeons.
What You Should Do if You Find a Pigeon with a Hat On
Anytime you see a pigeon in distress, it’s a good idea to find some help.
Your local animal rescue organization can help you find the right place to contact to find a place that takes pigeons.
If you see a bird with a hat glued to its head, whether you’re in Las Vegas or elsewhere, the best thing to do is find some help for the bird, not make a video on your phone and post it on social media.
Not only does a quick response mean a better outcome for the pigeon, but it also helps keep other people from trying the same thing on pigeons where they live.
You can also call your local animal control center.
While they may not pick up birds, they can direct you to the right place to find someone who does.
A bird-specific rescue center is the best resource for helping you determine what to do about a potentially injured or endangered pigeon that you see in your neighborhood.
Chances are that the person who made the video of the Cowboy Pigeons wasn’t aware that they were endangering the pigeon.
And chances are that anyone who watched the video was also unaware that the hats posed such a risk to the birds.
Now the story has come out and the death of one of the pigeons has been made known, it’s up to the public to join forces and ensure the humane treatment of all animals in their community, pigeons included.
If you see a bird that may be hurt or in danger, it’s up to you to make the call that can save its life.