Farmer's pink paint fooled twitchersBirdwatchers who hoped they had found a new species of hawk were shot down - when a farmer turned out to have been painting them pink for fun.
The strangely coloured hawks caused great excitement in the twitching community when they were first spotted in New Zealand three years ago.
But suspicions set in when one of the birds was hit by a car - and closer investigation revealed that it had been spray-painted a pinkish-red colour.
Animal protection officers began investigating and local farmer Grant Teahan was uncovered as the culprit, reports the Manawatu Standard.
He was first suspected when his nephew uploaded a video onto YouTube which showed a home-made bird trap covered in the same colour paint.
Computers seized at his farm, in Dannevirke, had files, photographs and films relating to red hawks deleted. Another file showed a cow spray-painted with "Merry Christmas".
Teahan was this week found guilty in Dannevirke District Court of two charges of ill-treating animals. He's due to be sentenced on 30 January.
Local SPCA manager Danny Auger said it was the most bizarre case he had ever worked on.
"Various people got involved, like experts who thought maybe it was a new strain or a new type of bird or whatever, but then feathers were being found and it was obvious somebody was actually painting these hawks," he said.