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Fake American leg band acquits pigeon on death row in Australia

A pigeon that Australia declared a biosecurity risk has received a reprieve after a U.S. bird organization declared its identifying leg band was fake.

The band suggested the bird found in a Melbourne backyard on December 26 was a racing pigeon that had left the U.S. state of Oregon, 13,000 kilometers away, two months earlier.

On that basis, Australian authorities on Thursday said they considered the bird a disease risk to Australia’s bird population and poultry industry and planned to kill it.




But Deone Roberts, sport development manager for the Oklahoma-based American Racing Pigeon Union, said on Friday the band was fake.

The band number belongs to a blue bar pigeon in the United States which is not the bird pictured in Australia, she said.

“The bird band in Australia is counterfeit and not traceable,” Roberts said. “They do not need to kill him.”



Australia’s Agriculture Department, which is responsible for biosecurity, agreed that the pigeon dubbed Joe, after U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, was wearing a “fraudulent copy” leg band.

“Following an investigation, the department has concluded that Joe the Pigeon is highly likely to be Australian and does not present a biosecurity risk,” it said in a statement.

The department said it will take no further action.

Acting Australian Prime Minister Michael McCormack had earlier said there would be no mercy if the pigeon was from the United States.

“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,” McCormack said.

Kevin Celli-Bird says he found the pigeon in his back garden on 26 December.

“He was pretty emaciated so I crushed up a dry biscuit and left it out there for him,” he told the AP news agency.