Public outcry in Australia after racing pigeon that survived 13,000km flight from Alabama faces death row

Giovanni Torre
·2 min read
Joe the pigeon has been named after Joe Biden - Channel 9 via AP
Joe the pigeon has been named after Joe Biden - Channel 9 via AP

A racing pigeon that got lost during a race in the US and made its way to Melbourne could soon be on death row, facing euthanasia as it's been branded a potential biohazard.

The bird, nicknamed Joe by Kevin Celli-Bird, who found him in his backyard on 26 December, disappeared from a race in Oregon on Oct 29.

Joe had survived a journey of at least 13,000km across the Pacific Ocean. Brad Turner, association secretary of the Australian National Pigeon Association, said he had heard of cases of Chinese racing pigeons reaching the Australian west coast aboard cargo ships, a much shorter voyage.

It is believed Joe may have been a stowaway for part of his epic journey.

On Thursday Mr Celli-Bird alerted the public to the fact the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service had called him on to ask him to catch the bird, after its arrival was reported in local media.

Mr Celli-Bird told The Guardian that the authorities were concerned about bird diseases.

“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, noting that originally the bird was tired and weak, but now was impossible for him to catch.

He said quarantine authorities were considering contracting a professional bird catcher. Many Australians expressed dismay at the thought of Joe being on death row, simply for being from the United States.

“They ought to give him a nice home,” Perth resident Jarrad Robb told the Telegraph.

Mr Celli-Bird told Guardian Australia he found Joe “having a drink and a wash” in his backyard fountain.

The Oklahoma-based American Pigeon Union has confirmed that Joe was registered to an owner in Montgomery, Alabama.

Mr Celli-Bird said he had attempted to contact the owner, but had not been unable to get in touch with them yet.

While he named Joe after Joe Biden, the name could also be seen as a tribute to GI Joe, a US army pigeon who served in North Africa during the Second World War.