A SWAN in Holyrood Park has been spray painted blue by thugs.
The distressed bird was found near St Margaret's Loch by a local swan study group and taken to the a wildlife centre in Fife for treatment.
It is thought the bird would have been nesting when it was attacked, as experts suggested that would be the only time it was likely to be surprised.
Now it faces weeks of intensive treatment to try and remove the toxic paint from its delicate feathers, a procedure which will see the team at the centre using the same specialist treatment they use to remove oil from seabirds.
Staff at the Scottish SPCA said they are "horrified" by the attack, which they said would leave the bird traumatised.
The swan is believed to have been attacked over a week ago, and was first spotted by members of the Lothians and Fife Swan Study Group, who carry out studies on the population and migration of swans in the area, as well as ringing the birds for identification.
It was taken to the Middlebank Centre, Dunfermline, as it is set up to deal with oiled birds and also has a lot of experience in treating injured swans.
Apart from the paint, the swan does not appear to have suffered any injuries.
Paul Renwick, the member of the swan study group who took the swan to the centre, said: "I had been told that one of the other members had spotted a swan that seemed to have been painted, and when I saw it, it was really quite obvious.
"It had paint all over its wings and its tail and it had clearly been done by some kind of aerosol spray.
"I've never seen anything like it, although I've always feared something like this might happen, and we thought it best to remove it in case other people started copying this attack."
The incident was also reported to a Historic Scotland park ranger, who said there had been other evidence of vandalism in the park in previous days.
Sandra Bonar, who runs the Middlebank centre, said: "It has what seems to be spray paint on its wings and tail, and it really is causing it a lot of problems.
"With oil we have to wash it off very carefully with a substance very like washing-up liquid, but I think we will need to use a more specialised product first for this because it is spray paint. It will probably have to remain in the centre for at least two weeks to recover after we have removed the paint."
A spokeswoman for the Scottish SPCA said: "We are horrified that someone would do this to a defenceless animal.
"It was probably nesting, as that is when it would be sitting stationary and would allow someone to come up behind it. It's unlikely they could have got close enough otherwise.
"It will now face a long period of rehabilitation, and it will take a lot of specialist cleaning to try and get the paint off.
"The swan is probably quite traumatised by the attack as well, and this kind of behaviour shouldn't be tolerated towards any animal."