Japanese pigeon skips local race, lands on Vancouver Island instead

A Japanese racing pigeon truly went the distance, after he overshot a 1,000-kilometre race in his native country and instead traveled across the Pacific Ocean and ended up on Vancouver Island.

The remarkable bird was tracked back to Japan, where he was released May 10 in the northern province of Hokkaido to take part in a local race.

The one-year-old bird was set to compete along with 8,000 other pigeons in his native land, but instead was discovered on June 6 at Canadian Forces Base Comox near Courtenay, B.C.

The bird was turned over to the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society, where staff nursed him back to health.

Maj Birch, founder and manager of MARS, told CTVNews.ca Friday that the male bird was very ill.

“He was very weak, very thin and we did a test and found that he had a very heavy parasite load,” she said, adding that the bird was treated with a combination of fluids, food and medication.

Birch said she is not sure how the pigeon was able to make the trans-Pacific crossing, or which route he took. She added that this is not the first bird from Japan to end up on British Columbia’s shores.

“We don’t actually know whether he took that route or whether he managed to catch a freighter or several freighters” she said.

“There’s no way of knowing that, so we can only imagine that he had a wonderful journey,” she said with a laugh. “Because he was found at our air force base, maybe he rode the plane.”

Thanks to a tag on the bird’s leg, the society was able to identify and later contact the owner of the champion pigeon.

Owner Hiroyasu Takasu said he was shocked to hear the bird had survived.

“(Birds) usually reach their limit in a week, with no food or water. This is a superior pigeon,” he told ABC News.

He noted that only around 20 per cent of the birds that raced last month were able to finish the race.

He added that the bird was never given a name, because pigeons are only named after they return home.

However, Takasu declined to have the bird returned to Japan by plane, citing fears that excessive travel might put added strain on its health.

This led to some initial searching to find the pigeon a home, as he is essentially considered an “illegal alien” who arrived on Canadian shores without being imported, Birch said.

“I was concerned that there may be issues in trying to find a home for him here,” she said, adding that the society is not a sanctuary but a rehabilitation centre.

Luckily, an official with the Mid-Island Racing Club in Nanaimo, B.C. has agreed to adopt the bird. The club is reportedly considering breeding it to produce more “superior” pigeons.

This may be a smart move, as it was the pigeon mother who reportedly won the local Japanese race.


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