“It was pretty emaciated so I crushed up some biscuits,” he told Australia’s 9News.
The bird, a racing pigeon registered to an owner in Montgomery, Ala., is believed to have escaped a competition in Oregon in October, possibly hitching a ride aboard a cargo ship before reaching Australia.
But now the pigeon, which Celli-Bird has named Joe (after President-elect Joe Biden) hangs out in his backyard, bathing in the fountain and has even befriended a local dove.
“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,” Celli-Bird said, the Associated Press reported.
But while Joe may have survived the 8,000-mile journey, Australia has some of the world’s strictest quarantine laws, and a pigeon from the United States could be carrying exotic diseases that threaten Australia’s biosecurity, authorities said.
Under normal circumstances, importing a pigeon would require permits, health certificates and a reservation at a quarantine facility.
In 2015, Australian authorities threatened to euthanize two dogs belonging to Johnny Depp and his then-wife Amber Heard, after they sneaked the Yorkshire terriers into the country without the proper permits.
“We found out he snuck them in because we saw them taking them to a poodle groomer,” former agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce said in an interview at the time.
“If we start letting movie stars — even though they’ve been the sexiest man alive twice — to come into our nation, why we don't just break the laws for everybody?” he said. “It’s time that Pistol and Boo [the two dogs] buggered off back to the United States.”
An Agriculture Department statement said the bird was “not permitted to remain in Australia” because “it could compromise Australia’s food security and our wild bird populations,” according to the AP.
“It poses a direct biosecurity risk to Australian bird life and our poultry industry,” the statement said.
On Friday, a twist emerged that raised the pigeon’s prospects of avoiding an untimely death. A spokeswoman for the Oklahoma-based American Racing Pigeon Union said the band on Joe’s leg appeared to be fake.
“The bird band in Australia is counterfeit and not traceable,” Deone Roberts said, according to the Associated Press. “It definitely has a home in Australia and not the U.S.” She added that counterfeit bird bands were turning up “more and more.”
Australian officials were looking into the matter. “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,” Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack told reporters.