A racing pigeon which survived an extraordinary 8,000-mile Pacific Ocean crossing from the United States to Australia is a quarantine risk and could be killed, Australian authorities say.
Kevin Celli-Bird said on Thursday he discovered that the exhausted bird which arrived in his garden in Melbourne on December 26 had disappeared from a race in the US state of Oregon on October 29.
Experts suspect the pigeon, which Mr Celli-Bird has named Joe, after the US president-elect, hitched a ride on a cargo ship to cross the Pacific.
Joe's feat has attracted the attention of the Australian media but also of the notoriously strict Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service.
Mr Celli-Bird said quarantine authorities called him on Thursday to ask him to catch the bird.
"They say if it is from America, then they're concerned about bird diseases," he said.
"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 millimetres of it and then it moves'.
He said quarantine authorities were now considering contracting a professional bird catcher.
The agriculture department, which is responsible for biosecurity, said the pigeon was "not permitted to remain in Australia" because it "could compromise Australia's food security and our wild bird populations".
"It poses a direct biosecurity risk to Australian bird life and our poultry industry," a department statement said.
In 2015, the government threatened to euthanise two Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, after they were smuggled into the country by Hollywood star Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard.
Faced with a 50-hour deadline to leave Australia, the dogs made it out in a chartered jet.
Pigeons are an unusual sight in Mr Celli-Bird's backyard in suburban Officer, where Australian native doves are far more common.
"It rocked up at our place on Boxing Day. 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," Mr Celli-Bird said.
"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 added.
Mr Celli-Bird, who says he has no interest in birds "apart from my last name", said he could no longer catch the pigeon with his bare hands since it had regained its strength.
Pictures of the week: January 10 - 16
Pictures of the week: January 10 - 16
Swimmer at Thorpe Bay near Southend in Essex. Heavy snow and freezing rain is set to batter the UK this week, with warnings issued over potential power cuts and travel delays.
A large balloon with Love written on it blocks the staircase of a basement in London, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021 during England's third national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A train passes over a swolen River Great Ouse in Haversham, Buckinghamshire. Heavy snow and freezing rain is set to batter the UK this week, with warnings issued over potential power cuts and travel delays.
An anti-High Speed 2 (HS2) rail line protest banner hangs next to a tree house in the Euston Square Gardens tree protection camp, outside Euston train station, in London, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Construction formally began in September on Britain's 106 billion-pound ($140 billion) high-speed railway project, aiming to forge better connections between cities for decades to come. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defended the project, which had its "shovels in the ground" moment just as the country was wondering whether the over-budget and often-delayed project offered good value at a time when the the COVID-19 pandemic enshrined the idea of working from home. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Snow in East Ardsley, West Yorkshire. Heavy snow and freezing rain is set to batter the UK this week, with warnings issued over potential power cuts and travel delays.
The River Roding after it burst its banks in Abridge, Essex. Heavy snow and freezing rain is set to batter the UK this week, with warnings issued over potential power cuts and travel delays.
A family play laser tag in a park in Worthing, as the UK continues in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Cars pass through a flood along Hamilton Road in Leicester, as heavy snow and freezing rain is set to batter the UK this week, with warnings issued over potential power cuts and travel delays.
A staff wearing a face mask and glove clean a train at Paddington station. London has recorded a further 10,020 coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, as ministers refused to rule out further restrictions on the horizon. (Photo by May James / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JANUARY 14: A supermarket customer looks at the near empty shelves in Tescos on January 14, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Supermarkets here are already seeing disruption to food supplies after the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31st, when Northern Ireland remained part of the E.U. single market while GB left. The change will require food products entering NI from Great Britain to receive additional certification and checks at ports. Despite a three-month "grace period," in which supermarkets needn't comply with all EU certification requirements, shoppers are already seeing disruption as supermarkets grapple with the changes. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
(left to right) Michael McInally, Katie Black, Rhea Black, 10, and Carmyn McInally, 10, sledging at Glencourse Golf Course near Penicuik, Midlothian. Heavy snow and freezing rain is set to batter the UK this week, with warnings issued over potential power cuts and travel delays.
An air ambulance takes off from a helipad on the roof of the Royal London Hospital in east London, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, during England's third national lockdown since the coronavirus outbreak began. Britain, with over 81,000 dead, has the deadliest virus toll in Europe and the number of hospital beds filled by COVID-19 patients has risen steadily for more than a month. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
FOLKESTONE, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 13: Artwork by Richard Woods in the harbor on January 13, 2021 in Folkestone, United Kingdom. On Monday January 4th England entered its third lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Schools and colleges moved to online learning, mixing with people outside households and bubbles was curtailed and non-essential food shops closed. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
People walk past a Merchant Seafarers�s War Memorial Sculpture at Cardiff Bay in Wales.
1,332 new cases of the coronavirus have been recorded today bringing the total to 172,879 since the pandemic began. The overall death total now stands at 3,997 in Wales. The infection rate is now 403.5 cases per 100,000 people based on the seven days up to January 7. That is down on the 415 previously reported. (Photo by May James / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
An almost empty Bank district of London, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021 during England's third national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Sheffield United's Billy Sharp scores his side's first goal from the penalty spot during the English Premier League soccer match between Sheffield United and Newcastle United at the Bramall Lane stadium in Sheffield, England, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. (Oli Scarff/Pool via AP)
A shopper purchases cheese from Mons Cheesemongers at Borough Market, London, which has become the first outdoor space in the UK to legally enforce the wearing of face masks for all customers and stallholders.
One of Glasgow's best-know murals, by street artist Smug, depicts a modern-day St Mungo which references the story of the Bird That Never Flew. January 13 is the feast day of St Mungo who is the patron saint and founder of the City of Glasgow. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
A woman lays a floral tribute at the David Bowie mural in Brixton, south London on the fifth anniversary of the singer's death, Sunday Jan. 10, 2021. The singer-songwriter Bowie died of liver cancer at his home in New York, USA, on 10 January 2016. (Jonathan Brady/PA via AP)
A person walks a dog at sunrise on the beach in Scarbourough, North Yorkshire. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Medical staff treat an arriving patient at the Royal London Hospital in London, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021 during England's third national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. The government has imposed a national lockdown while allowing schools to open, with freedom to exercise and shop for food and essential items.(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Graffiti to say thank you to NHS is seen on a street in Wales. (Photo by May James / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
West Ham's Mark Noble, right, tries to block a shot from Stockport County's Liam Hogan during the English FA Cup third round soccer match between Stockport County and West Ham United at Edgeley Park in Stockport, England, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. (Martin Rickett/Pool via AP)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks to Hazel and John Watson at Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol, England, Monday Jan. 11, 2021. The center is one of the seven mass vaccination centers now opened to the general public as the government continues to ramp up the vaccination programme against Covid-19. (Eddie Mulholland/Pool via AP)
CROSBY, ENGLAND - JANUARY 10: Gareth Bale of Tottenham goes past Niall Cummins of Mafrine during the FA Cup Third Round match between Marine and Tottenham Hotspur at Rossett Park on January 10, 2021 in Crosby, England. Sporting stadiums around England remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)
Two women swim as a ferry boat approaches the harbour at Dover, south England, Monday Jan. 11, 2021, during the third national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. The government has imposed a national lockdown while allowing schools to open, with freedom to exercise and shop for food and essential items. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)
CROSBY, ENGLAND - JANUARY 10: A policeman stands in-front of Newport fans prior to the FA Cup Third Round match between Marine and Tottenham Hotspur at Rossett Park on January 10, 2021 in Crosby, England. Sporting stadiums around England remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Brighton's English goalkeeper Jason Steele saves a penalty from Newport County's Welsh defender Liam Shephard (not seen) during the penalty shoot-out in the English FA Cup third round football match between Newport County and Brighton and Hove Albion at Rodney Parade in Newport, south Wales on January 10, 2021. (Photo by Nick Potts / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by NICK POTTS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
A grey seal and her pup on the beach at Horsey Gap in Norfolk, England, Sunday Jan. 10, 2021. A group monitoring the seals in the national park on England's east coast have recorded over 2000 seal births this season, with police patrolling the area to deter visitors during the current coronavirus lockdown. (Joe Giddens/PA via AP)
A woman talks to a healthcare worker before she receives an injection of a Covid-19 vaccine at the NHS vaccine centre that has been set up at the Centre for Life in Times Square, Newcastle. The centre is one of the seven mass vaccination centres now opened to the general public as the government continues to ramp up the vaccination programme against Covid-19. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
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He said the Oklahoma-based American Racing Pigeon Union had confirmed that Joe was registered to an owner in Montgomery, Alabama.
Mr Celli-Bird said he had attempted to contact the owner, but had so far been unable to get through.
The bird spends every day in the garden, sometimes sitting next to a native dove on a pergola. Mr Celli-Bird has been feeding it pigeon food.
"I think that he just decided that since I've given him some food and he's got a spot to drink, that's home," he said.
Australian National Pigeon Association secretary Brad Turner said he had heard of cases of Chinese racing pigeons reaching the Australian west coast aboard cargo ships, a far shorter voyage.
Mr Turner said there were genuine fears pigeons from the United States could carry exotic diseases and he agreed Joe should be destroyed.
"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 AQIS and those sort of people would give their wholehearted support for the idea," Mr Turner said, referring to the quarantine service.