Racing pigeon that survived 13,000km journey from US to Australia now faces euthanasia

Published: 14 Jan 2021

Online Desk

The racing pigeon christened Joe after arriving in a Melbourne backyard, having somehow made a 13,000km journey across the Pacific from the US. Photograph: AP

The racing pigeon christened Joe after arriving in a Melbourne backyard, having somehow made a 13,000km journey across the Pacific from the US. Photograph: AP

A racing pigeon that survived a 13,000km Pacific Ocean crossing from the United States to Australia now faces being euthanised as a quarantine risk.

Kevin Celli-Bird said he discovered that the exhausted bird that arrived in his Melbourne backyard on Boxing Day had disappeared from a race in the US state of Oregon on 29 October, reports The Guardian.

Experts suspect the pigeon that Celli-Bird has named Joe, after the US president-elect, Joe Biden, hitched a ride on a cargo ship to cross the Pacific.

Celli-Bird said the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service called him on Thursday to ask him to catch the bird, after its arrival was reported in the media.

“They say if it is from America, then they’re concerned about bird diseases,” Celli-Bird said. “They wanted to know if I could help them out. I said, ’To be honest, I can’t catch it. I can get within 500mm of it and then it moves.’”

He said quarantine authorities were now considering contracting a professional bird catcher.

The quarantine service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In 2015, the government threatened to euthanise two Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, after they were smuggled into the country by Hollywood star Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard. Faced with a 50-hour deadline to leave Australia, the dogs made it out in a chartered jet.

Pigeons are an unusual sight in Celli-Bird’s backyard in suburban Officer, where Australian native doves are much more common.

“It rocked up at our place on Boxing Day. I’ve got a fountain in the backyard and it was having a drink and a wash. He was pretty emaciated so I crushed up a dry biscuit and left it out there for him,” Celli-Bird said.

“Next day, he rocked back up at our water feature, so I wandered out to have a look at him because he was fairly weak and he didn’t seem that afraid of me and I saw he had a blue band on his leg. Obviously he belongs to someone, so I managed to catch him,” he said.

Cellis-Bird, who said he had no interest in birds “apart from my last name”, said he could no longer catch the pigeon with his bare hands since it had regained its strength.

He said the Oklahoma-based American Pigeon Union had confirmed that Joe was registered to an owner in Montgomery, Alabama.

Celli-Bird said he had attempted to contact the owner, but had so far been unable to get through.

The bird spends every day in the backyard, sometimes sitting side-by-side with a native dove on a pergola. Celli-Bird has been feeding it since it arrived.

“I think that he just decided that since I’ve given him some food and he’s got a spot to drink, that’s home,” he said.

Australian National Pigeon Association secretary Brad Turner said he had heard of cases of Chinese racing pigeons reaching the Australian west coast aboard cargo ships, a much shorter voyage.


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