INDIAN ROCKS BEACH (FOX 13) - Wildlife rescue workers in Pinellas County are desperate to find a white ibis that was photographed by a beach-goer this week, covered in blue paint or dye.
The woman who took the photographs, Carolynn Thomas posted the photos Wednesday in a seashell collectors Facebook group of which she is a member.
In a message to FOX 13, Thomas said the bird "was acting normal and eating with the rest of the birds...looks like he got into some colored water at a golf course or somewhere."
Shelley Vickery, who runs Birds in Helping Hands, a wildlife rescue organization, saw the original post and immediately wanted to find the ibis.
"It kind of sickens us. That's really a horrible thing to do to wildlife. You wouldn't do that to anything else," she said, adding she's extremely concerned someone had to catch the bird to color it blue. "Every time a bird gets caught or handled, it's stressed out and birds can die of stress in very short time."
Vickery told FOX 13 the bird was last seen Thursday on Indian Rocks Beach close to Largo.
She said, regardless of how the white bird ended up an unnatural shade of blue, there are a series of other potentially serious complications.
"It could impede the feather health," she said. "[If] it's toxic, birds are much smaller than us and it doesn't take a lot to poison them, so it's going to affect their livers and all their body functions eventually."
Jennifer Godwin was at the beach Friday afternoon. She's a bird-lover who devoted five years of her career to rehabilitating birds.
Godwin is now a veterinarian technician and explained more about why it's important to find this bird.
"Its waterproofing is definitely at risk," she said. "As someone who's rescued birds before and rehabilitated birds, I know that a lot of the birds...need a certain oil in their feathers to prevent damage, freezing, things like that."
This is not the first time something like this has happened in Florida. In May, a man in Lake County was charged for allegedly spray-painting a gopher tortoise red.
It's unclear if a person painted or dyed the bird blue or if it happened by accident.
Vickery said if someone sees the bird, they should contact Florida Fish and Wildlife or a nearby wildlife rescue group right away.
Birds in Helping Hands can be reached at 727-365-4592 or 904-703-2815.
FWC's Wildlife Alert hotline can be reached at 1-888-404-FWCC (1-888-404-3922). On a mobile device, dial *FWC or #FWC.