Luckily, staff at a car wash in Blackburn spotted the pink pigeon and called for help from the RSPCA.

The charity’s Inspector Nina Small who came to the pink pigeon’s rescue admitted the bird was one of strangest things she has ever witnessed.

Inspector Small said: “I’ve never seen anything like it in 15 years of this job.

“He was covered in a pink, greasy paint-like substance from head to tail with only his eyes clear.

“And he was in a car wash of all places. Perhaps he was trying to clean himself off…

“After a wash, his feathers were still stained pink. The amount of paint coming off his body was astonishing.

“We can’t be sure whether the bird had been deliberately covered in paint or whether he’d fallen in something.

“If someone has intentionally painted the pigeon’s feathers then I’d be very concerned for other birds and animals in the area.

“This is a cruel and unnecessary thing to do to an animal and could cause health problems, impair his ability to fly and make him more vulnerable to predators.”

Predators such as feral cars and introduced rats along with loss of forest habitat were the reason that Mauritius pink pigeons all but disappeared from the Indian Ocean island notorious for witnessing the 17th Century extinction of the dodo.

In 1991, there were only 10 pink pigeons left alive but work by the Durrell Conservation Trust nurtured the critically endangered species so that around 500 now exist.

For Blackburn’s pink pigeon, a recovery programme is also underway to nurse him back to flying fitness.

Inspector Small added: “Luckily this pigeon wasn’t injured and we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to clean all of the paint off of his feathers and get him back to good condition so he can be released back into the wild where he belongs.

“I just hope his feathers haven’t been permanently damaged and that his flight won’t be affected, which could mean he will need to stay in care much longer before being released.”