A pigeon in Australia can coo in peace after his marking as an American almost got him killed. The emaciated pigeon, spotted Dec. 26 in Melbourne, was wearing a leg band that identified it as a racing pigeon who'd left Oregon in October. Australian authorities therefore assumed the pigeon—named Joe, after US President-elect Joe Biden—had traveled 8,000 miles by hitching a ride on a cargo ship, bypassing the country's strict rules on importing animals, and vowed to kill it. "It poses a direct biosecurity risk to Australian bird life and our poultry industry," the Agriculture Department said Thursday, per the AP. It has since changed its tune, however, after Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack vowed to look into the matter and a rep for the American Racing Pigeon Union said the leg band was counterfeit.
The number on the band actually belongs to an American Blue Bar pigeon, which appears grey, not white and brown like Joe, rep Deone Roberts tells the AP. He says counterfeit bird bands are becoming increasingly common in step with a resurgence in pigeon racing—one bird sold for $1.9 million two months ago. The bird found in Australia "is not from the US," Roberts adds, though it's unclear why he was wearing the band. Other experts believe Joe is a local Turkish Tumbler pigeon and likely just three or four months old, per the BBC and Guardian. As a result, the Agriculture Department concluded Friday that "Joe the Pigeon is highly likely to be Australian" and no further action is needed. That's happy news for Kevin Celli-Bird, who originally found Joe and has made a home for him in his backyard. (Read more pigeon stories.)