Fake tag claim offers pigeon a death row reprieve

Published January 16, 2021
MELBOURNE: A pigeon with a blue leg band stands on a rooftop.—AP
MELBOURNE: A pigeon with a blue leg band stands on a rooftop.—AP

MELBOURNE: A racing pigeon detained by Australian authorities and set to be destroyed over concerns it was an American intruder received a lifeline on Friday, when experts revealed its leg tag was probably fake.

Originally thought to have flown from Alabama to a backyard in Melbourne — an epic journey of 14,500 kilometres (9,000 miles) — “Joe” the racing pigeon made headlines around the world.

Australian media had reported that Melbourne man Kevin Chelli-Bird discovered the pigeon — who he named after president-elect Joe Biden — with an ankle band linked to a US racing bird.

As news spread, quarantine officials labelled Joe a “biosecurity risk” and suggested he might have to be humanely destroyed to prevent possible disease.

But as execution loomed for the feathered flyer on Friday, pigeon enthusiasts cast doubt on Joe’s identity.

The American-style racing band around Joe’s leg appeared to be a knock-off available online and often used by local owners.

And it transpired that Joe was not a US racing breed, as his tag seemed to suggest, but a local Turkish Tumbler.

“They’re not bred for flying long distances, they’re bred for tricks in the air. So they’re like a show bird really,” Lars Scott from Pigeon Rescue Melbourne said.

Scott’s claim that the tag was a fake was backed up by the American Racing Pigeon Union, which posted on Facebook to try to save Joe.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2021

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