After a US bird association announced its identification leg band was false, a pigeon that Australia declared a biosecurity risk may get a reprieve.
The band suggested a racing pigeon that had left the US state of Oregon, 13,000 kilometres away, two months ago, was the bird discovered in a Melbourne backyard on Dec 26.
On that basis, on Thursday, Australian authorities said they considered the bird a risk of disease and planned to kill it.
But Deone Roberts, manager of sports development for the Oklahoma-based American Racing Pigeon Union, said the band was fake on Friday.
In the United States, the band number belongs to a blue bar pigeon and it is not the bird pictured in Australia,’ she added.
“The bird band in Australia is counterfeit and not traceable,” Roberts said. “It definitely has a home in Australia and not the US.”
Someone has to look at the band and then realise that the bird doesn’t come from the United States. They do not need to shoot him,” she said.
“Counterfeiting bird bands is happening more and more,”Counterfeiting bird bands are happening more and more. “People coming into the hobby unknowingly buy that.”
The popularity of pigeon racing has seen a revival, and certain birds have become very expensive. In November, a Chinese pigeon racing enthusiast put down a record price for a Belgian-bred pigeon of EUR 1.6 million ($1.9 million).
Acting Australian Prime Minister Michael McCormack said he didn’t know what the destiny of the American president-elect, the bird called Joe, would be like. Although if the pigeon came from the United States, there would be no mercy.
If Joe has landed in a manner that our strict biosecurity measures have not met, so Joe’s poor luck is either going home or facing the consequences,”If Joe has come in a way that has not met our strict biosecurity measures, then bad luck Joe, either fly home or face the consequences,”
Yet Martin Foley, Minister of Health for Joe’s home state of Victoria, called on the federal government to save the bird.
“I would urge the Commonwealth’s quarantine officials to show a little bit of compassion,” Foley said.
A Victorian lawmaker for the small Animal Justice Party, Andy Meddick, applied for a pigeon pardon for Joe.
“Should the federal government allow Joe to live, I am happy to seek assurances that he is not a flight risk,” Meddick said.
Kevin Celli-Bird, a Melbourne resident who discovered the emaciated bird in his backyard, was shocked at the development and relieved that the bird he had called Joe could not have been killed.
Oh, I’m glad,”Yeah, I’m happy about that,”
Based on the number on the leg tag, Celli-Bird had called the American Racing Pigeon Union to locate the owner of the bird.
The bands have both a number and a symbol, but Celli-Bird could not know the symbol and said that because it had healed from its initial weakness, it could no longer capture the bird.
Lucas Cramer, owner of the Crooked River Challenge, said, “The bird with the genuine leg band had disappeared from a 560-kilometre (350-mile) race in Oregon on Oct 29,”
“That bird did not have a racing record that would make it valuable enough to steal its identity,” he said.
Cramer said, “That bird didn’t finish the race series, it didn’t make any money and so its worthless, really,”
He said it was possible that a pigeon could cross the Pacific on a ship to Australia from Oregon.
“It does happen. We get birds in the United States that come from Japan,” Cramer said. “In reality, it could potentially happen, but this isn’t the same pigeon. Its not even a racing pigeon.”
In the garden, the bird spends every day, often with a native dove on a pergola.
Within days of its arrival, Celli-Bird fed the pigeon food. “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.
Lars Scott, a carer at the bird conservation organisation Pigeon Rescue Melbourne, said that pigeons with American leg bands were not rare across the area. “A number of Melbourne breeders bought them online and used them for their own record-keeping,” Scott said.
Australian officials in quarantine are famously strict. The government threatened to euthanize two Yorkshire terriers in 2015, Gun and Boo, after Hollywood actor Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard smuggled them into the country.
The dogs made it out on a chartered plane in the face of a 50-hour deadline to depart Australia.