Farmer caught spray-painting hawks as part of “prank” on bird-watchers

A New Zealand farmer has been caught spray-painting hawks in a pinkish-red hue as part of a "prank" on bird-watchers who were hoping to have discovered a new species of bird.

Grant Michael Teahan has been found guilty on two charges of ill-treating an animal, according to the Manawatu Standard.

The mystery began in early 2009, when locals began snapping pictures of the strangely colored hawks and sending them to the local newspaper. It was only after on of the hawks was accidentally hit by a car that the spray-painting ruse was discovered.

An investigation by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) failed to turn up a culprit until Teahan asked his nephew to send a video clip to the media of him catching a magpie in a trap covered in the spray paint. When police seized computers from Tehan's property, they found deleted pictures and video relating to "red hawks."

"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," Palmerston North SPCA manager Danny Auger told the Standard.

Teahan is appealing his conviction.

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