Feds target border hopping pigeon

Joe the bird wasn't keen to speak with media. 225791_02

By Mitchell Clarke

An American racing pigeon, who flew 15,000 kilometres from the United States to Officer, will be killed by authorities.

Kevin Celli-Bird, who first noticed the out-of-place pigeon in his backyard water feature on Boxing Day, said he received a call from the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment.

The remarkable story of Joe the pigeon, named after incoming president Joe Biden, came to light after Mr Celli-Bird investigated the bird’s origin through the tag on his foot.

He found the pigeon likely belonged to a man from Montgomery, Alabama, and flew in a race from Oregon on 29 October.

Mr Celli-Bird has made numerous attempts to contact the rightful owners but said he’s not fazed if his new mate decides to take up permanent residence.

“If he’s come from America I don’t want to put him through any more stress,” he laughed.

“If he decides to hang around longer, I’ll keep feeding him. From what I understand with homing pigeons, once they come, if they get food and feel safe, they basically just stay.”

But the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment appear to have other plans.

Mr Celli-Bird said he was called by the Department just after 1pm on Thursday 14 January, who said the homing pigeon would need to be euthanised, likely due to a bio-hazard risk.

“The lady said to me ‘we’ve become aware that you have a bird from America’. We need to come out to try and capture it,” he told the Gazette.

“I’m not real happy about it, it just seems a bit unfair, especially that there’s no physical proof it’s from America.

“I wouldn’t have an issue if they took it and quarantined it for a few weeks but putting it down just seems a bit far-fetched.”

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment said the only possible outcome to “manage the biosecurity risk” is humane destruction of the bird.

“It poses a direct biosecurity risk to Australian bird life and our poultry industry,” a Department spokesperson said.

“Birds arriving from outside Australia can carry a range of diseases of concern for domestic birds – including our $3.7 billion poultry industry and native birdlife.

“Regardless of its origin, any domesticated bird that has not met import health status and testing requirements is not permitted to remain in Australia.

“As it was not legally prepared for import or imported, the health status of this bird and any others it has been in contact with at its origin and prior to arrival in Australia is unknown.”

The Department said it was unlikely that the bird actually flew from Alabama to Melbourne, adding it was more likely to be a “hitchhiker” on a cargo vessel that arrived in Melbourne.  

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