Story at a glance

  • The Associated Press (AP) reports a Melbourne resident — appropriately named Kevin Celli-Bird — found the exhausted bird in his backyard on Dec. 26 drinking from a fountain.
  • Celli-Bird determined the pigeon, which he later named Joe after the U.S. president-elect, was registered to an owner in Montgomery, Ala., and had disappeared during a race in Oregon on Oct. 29.
  • Experts believe Joe likely hitched a ride on a cargo ship in order to make the 8,000-mile trek across the Pacific Ocean.

Editor's note: On January 15, officials announced that Joe's leg band is likely a fake and he is most likely a local bird, meaning there is no reason to put him down. Read our new story here.

A racing pigeon that successfully made its way from the United States to Australia may have to be put down as Australian authorities are worried the animal could carry potentially dangerous diseases. 

The Associated Press reports a Melbourne resident — appropriately named Kevin Celli-Bird — found the exhausted bird in his backyard on Dec. 26 drinking from a fountain. 


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“He was pretty emaciated so I crushed up a dry biscuit and left it out there for him,” Celli-Bird said, according to AP. 

“Next day, he rocked back up at our water feature, so I wandered out to have a look at him because he was fairly weak and he didn’t seem that afraid of me and I saw he had a blue band on his leg. Obviously he belongs to someone, so I managed to catch him,” he said. 

After some investigation, Celli-Bird determined the pigeon, which he later named Joe after U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, was registered to an owner in Montgomery, Ala., and had disappeared during a race in Oregon on Oct. 29.

Experts believe Joe likely hitched a ride on a cargo ship in order to make the 8,000-mile trek across the Pacific Ocean. Celli-Bird said he tried to get in touch with Joe’s owner but was unable to. 

News of the bird’s extraordinary journey caught the attention of the Australian press, as well as the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Services (AQIS), who contacted Celli-Bird and asked him to help catch Joe for fear the bird is carrying diseases foreign to Australia. 

“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 mil (millimeters or 20 inches) of it and then it moves,' ” he said, noting that authorities said they planned to hire a professional to capture the bird. 

Australian health authorities told AP the pigeon was not permitted to remain in the country because it could threaten “food security and our wild bird populations.” 

“It poses a direct biosecurity risk to Australian bird life and our poultry industry,” the country’s Agriculture Department said. 

Australian National Pigeon Association secretary Brad Turner told the news outlet the fear of foreign disease from the bird was legitimate and believed Joe should be put down. 

“While it sounds harsh to the normal person — they’d hear that and go: ‘this is cruel,’ and everything else — I’d think you’d find that A.Q.I.S. and those sort of people would give their wholehearted support for the idea,” Turner told AP. 


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Published on Jan 14, 2021