CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – A carrier pigeon has survived an extraordinary 13,000-kilometer (8,000-mile) crossing of the Pacific Ocean from the United States to find a new home in Australia. 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 December 26 had disappeared from a run in the US state of Oregon on October 29.
Experts suspect the pigeon Celli-Bird named Joe, named after the president-elect, hitchhiked on a freighter to cross the Pacific.
Joe’s feat caught the attention of the Australian media as well as the notoriously strict Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service.
Celli-Bird said quarantine authorities called him on Thursday asking him to catch the bird.
“They say if it’s from America, then they’re concerned about bird diseases,” he says. “They wanted to know if I could help them. I said, ‘To be honest, I can’t catch it. I can get within 500 mil (millimeters or 20 inches) of it, then it moves. “
He said quarantine authorities are 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 euthanize 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 delay to leave Australia, the dogs made it out on a chartered plane.
Pigeons are an unusual sight in the Celli-Bird backyard in the Officer’s suburb, where Australian doves are much more common.
“It changed with us the day after Christmas. I have a fountain in the yard and there was a drink and a wash. He was pretty emaciated so I crushed a dry cookie and left it there for him, ”Celli-Bird said.
“The next day he turned against our body of water, so I walked around to look at him because he was quite weak and didn’t seem to be afraid of me and j saw he had a blue stripe on his leg. Obviously, it belongs to someone, so I managed to catch it, ”he added.
Cellis-Bird, who says he is not interested in birds “other than my last name,” said he could no longer catch the pigeon with his bare hands since he regained his strength.
He said the Oklahoma-based American Pigeon Union had confirmed that Joe was registered with an owner in Montgomery, Alabama.
Celli-Bird said he tried to contact the owner, but has so far been unable to get through.
The bird spends daily in the yard, sometimes sitting side by side with a native dove on a pergola. Celli-Bird has been giving him pigeon food since his arrival.
“I think he just decided that since I gave him food and he has a place to drink, it’s his home,” he said.
Australian National Pigeon Association secretary Brad Turner said he had heard of cases of Chinese carrier pigeons reaching Australia’s west coast aboard freighters, a much shorter trip.
According to pigeonpedia.com, the largest long-distance flight recorded by a pigeon is the one that started in Arras, France and ended in Saigon, Vietnam, in 1931. The distance was 11,600 kilometers (7,200 miles) ) and lasted 24 days.
There are a few known examples of long distance flights, but it is not known whether these are one-off events performed by the pigeon world marathoners or feats which could be accomplished by the average pigeon.