A PLUMP, plucky pigeon sporting perfectly pink plumage – it would certainly have given bird-bothering cartoon villain Dick Dastardly and his chums food for thought.

Appearances suggest it would be more at home in a tropical rainforest, but this colourful Columbidae was spotted circling the skies above Darlington by an eagle-eyed dog walker.

She thought she was hallucinating until she realised it was a common-or-garden pigeon with an inexplicable shock of brightly-coloured feathers.

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It is not known how long the bird, which resembles the Pink Panther’s pet pigeon, has been circling the skies above Darlington, but she certainly seems at home.

When The Northern Echo went on the bird’s trail – without binoculars or spotter’s guide, Bill Oddie has nothing to fear – we found a cluster of sightseers keen to catch a glimpse.

She has been named Molly – or should that be Polly? - by three-year-old Madeleine Gamble, whose father Jason had taken her for a closer look at the spectacle.

Maybe you think that if you’ve seen one feral pigeon, you’ve seen them all, regardless of colour.

Then you can’t have witnessed a fluorescent bird swooping majestically through the skies in Neasham Road area of Darlington, against a backdrop of watery winter sunshine.

It’s enough to melt the heart of even the most hardened cynic.

Mr Gamble, who lives close to the pigeon’s nesting spot, said: “It was our postman that spotted it and told me about it – at first, I thought he must have been drinking.

“But sure enough, here it is in all its glory.

“It’s in quite a large flock and it physically it doesn’t seem any different to any of the others.”

Quite how the pigeon got its distinctive coat has been a matter for conjecture – dye-based cruelty, genetic quirk, freak of nature?

After examining the pictures, a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds spokesman was confident it had been dyed.

Pauline Wilson, of the National Animal Sanctuaries Support League, in Newton Aycliffe, is concerned that the bird’s distinctive plumage could make it a target for yobs.

She said: “There are some very strange people out there and my concern is that this bird, being the colour that it is, could become a target.

“I would like to meet the person that dyed it, if it has been dyed – why would anybody want to do that to a pigeon?

“It may just be one of those freak things, but I do hope that it won’t be targeted.”