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This COVID pigeon story from Australia is proof people have lost their minds

Published Jan 17th, 2021 3:08PM EST
Coronavirus news
Image: drakuliren/Adobe
  • The latest coronavirus news out of Australia includes what might sound like an extreme step officials are taking there against a pigeon.
  • A racing pigeon found in Melbourne was believed to have come across the Pacific Ocean from the US.
  • News media picked up on the story because the pigeon’s uncertain provenance means it might be killed, since officials worry about it bringing COVID from the US.

2021 is already coming in hot, with what we guarantee is absolutely the weirdest coronavirus news you will read today. And that’s because it involves a racing pigeon currently on death row in Australia, where officials think the bird ended up after surviving a trek possibly via a ship across the Pacific Ocean from the US. The unlucky fowl’s fate is still up in the air, though, because — why else? It’s a bird that came from the US, which can only mean one thing: It might have brought COVID with it.

The pigeon’s name is Joe, in honor of US President-elect Joe Biden, and here’s what happened: An Australian man named Kevin Celli-Bird said on Thursday he discovered that this pigeon, which had turned up in his backyard in Melbourne at the end of December, seemed to be from the US. “Seemed,” being the operative word. The giveaway was a distinctive band seen on the pigeon’s leg, which someone obviously put there. Celli-Bird made some calls, and it turns out this particular bird seems to have gone missing from a racing pigeon contest in Oregon back in October.

“It rocked up at our place on Boxing Day,” Celli-Bird told The Associated Press. “I’ve got a fountain in the backyard and it was having a drink and a wash. He was pretty emaciated so I crushed up a dry biscuit and left it out there for him. Next day, he rocked back up at our water (fountain), 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.”

Australian media, of course, picked up on the news. But so did the no-nonsense Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, and the latest word is that authorities are considering euthanizing the bird over coronavirus fears. “They say if it is from America, then they’re concerned about bird diseases,” Celli-Bird continues. “They wanted to know if I could help them out. I said, ‘To be honest, I can’t catch it. I can get within (20 inches) of it and then it moves.'”

Plot twist: Officials are also running down a possible break in the case of this runaway bird. As the news clip above shows, consideration is now being given to the possibility that the band on the bird’s leg is a fake, or at least not suggestive of an American origin, which may spare the bird from the pigeon executioner.

For now, the pigeon is spending its time in Celli-Bird’s backyard. Sometimes, it can be seen sitting beside a native dove, enjoying the food that Celli-Bird leaves out. There’s talk that Australian officials are going to task a professional bird catcher to bring it in to complete the investigation.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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