Australia to Kill Pigeon that Flew Across the World

Gage Sawyer, Writer/editor

 

On Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2020, in Melbourne, Australia a racing pigeon has survived an extraordinary 13,000-kilometer (8,000-mile) Pacific Ocean crossing from the United States to find a new home in Australia but now authorities consider the bird a quarantine risk and plan to kill it.

Kevin Celli-Bird said Thursday he discovered the exhausted bird that arrived in his Melbourne backyard on Dec. 26 had disappeared from a race in the U.S. state of Oregon on Oct. 29.

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

Joe’s journey has attracted the attention of the Australian media but also of the notoriously strict Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service.

Celli-Bird said quarantine authorities called him on Thursday to ask him to catch the bird.

“They say if it is from America, then they’re concerned about bird diseases,” he 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 500 mils (millimeters or 20 inches) of it and then it moves.”

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

The Agriculture Department, which is responsible for biosecurity, said the pigeon was “not permitted to remain in Australia” because it “could compromise Australia’s food security and our wild bird populations.”

He said the Oklahoma-based American Racing 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 pigeon food from within days of its arrival.

“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

Although, Brad Turner, Australian National Pigeon Association secretary, said there were genuine fears pigeons from the United States could carry exotic diseases and he agreed Joe should be destroyed.