A group of New Zealand birdwatchers thought that they encountered a new species -- but really, it was just a faux hawk.
A Dannervirke District Court judge has found a local farmer guilty of ill-treatment of animals after footage of the farmer capturing the birds in a spray paint covered trap surfaced on YouTube, the Manawatu Standard reports.
The pinkish-red feathered creatures began appearing in the region during 2009. At the time, the birdwatching community thought it discovered a new species. That belief, however, was shot down when a car hit one of the birds, revealing the exotic feathers to be the result of a quick paint job.
Following this revelation, the Society for Prevention of Cruelty of Animals began investigating the farmer, named Grant Michael Teahan, who eventually did himself in by asking his nephew to send a video of a man catching a bird in a homemade trap, incidentally covered in pinkish-red spray pain, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
"I do not accept Teahan's evidence that he had no involvement in painting the harrier hawks," Judge Geoff Rae said, according to . His explanations were not consistent and I found him to be an unimpressive witness. I do not consider he was telling the truth about his involvement either when questioned by SPCA officers or when giving evidence in court."
Teahan will be sentenced on Jan. 30 and is considering an appeal.
He faces fines up to $50,000 as well as a year in prison for each charge.