SESAME Street hero Big Bird has been forced into hiding after being attacked by anti-bird flu vigilantes, many terrified by the prospect of a global pandemic.
Just hours before he was due to be called as a defence witness at the Michael Jackson trial, the canary yellow kiddies' favourite was attacked just outside his Manhattan apartment.
New York police chiefs are keen to trace his attackers, who struck just before 8am last Friday morning and repeatedly clobbered Mr Bird clobbered with a large rubber chicken.
The softly spoken bachelor, who shot to fame in the 1970s as the feathered Godfather of the Street, was yesterday nursing a broken wing and chipped beak at a bird sanctuary in Long Island.
Close friend Oscar, who lives in a modest trash can on Central Park West, said his old friend was on the mend but remained badly shaken.
He said: "Bird is pretty frail but he's a fighter, so we're confident he'll pull through. I visited him last night, under the cover of darkness, and was in good spirits despite his ordeal. I just hope they trace the malicious thugs who did this very soon."
The Children's Television Workshop, the production firm behind Sesame Street, has offered a reward of $10,000 to anyone who can help police with their enquiries.
The attack on Big Bird was the latest in a series of bizarre attacks on high profile birds across the globe.
The hunt is still on for a gang who attacked veteran British entertainer, Orville the Duck, as he slept alongside owner Keith Harris last week.
Suspicion initially fell on showbiz rival, Cuddles the Monkey, largely due to his inclination to repeatedly shout "I hate that duck".
However, further investigations revealed the monkey was busking with an elderly organ grinder in Leeds at the time, so he was ruled out of the inquiry.
Emu, a close feathered friend of the late entertainer Rod Hull, suffered a fractured leg after being attacked in Hammersmith last Wednesday, following a comeback performance with Rod's son Toby.
The ageing bird, who had only just returned to the stage after Rod's untimely death in 1999, is slowly recovering but will need months of intensive physiotherapy before he can return to his arduous schedule.
A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds told Spoof:
"This has to stop before a bird is killed. News of the attack on Big Bird in New York further compounds the need for global action on this perverse brand of racism. The bird community too is terrified of bird flu and this is the last thing they need."
It is believed anti-bird gangs across the globe have been using the Internet to organise flash mobs to terrorise the avian community. A special task force has been set up across Europe and America to help tackle the burgeoning problem.