Joe the racing pigeon has captivated Australia, with punters marvelling at his marathon journey from the United States and the bloodthirstiness of quarantine authorities who want Joe put down as soon as possible.

But there’s been a dramatic twist in his story, and one that may save his life yet. According to American pigeon fanciers, Joe never made the international trip – and he’s actually one of us.

On Friday, the American Racing Pigeon Union (AU), a national organisation representing homing pigeon enthusiasts, claimed the ankle tag tying him to a US owner is fake.

“What a relief to know that Joe the Pigeon found in Australia is not a genuine AU band,” the organisation said.

The group said its bands are worn by the Blue Bar breed of pigeon, not dust-coloured birds like Joe.

The tag in question. Via Nine News

“The pigeon found in Australia sports a counterfeit band and need not be destroyed per biosecurity measures, because his actual home is in Australia,” they said.

That conflicts with prior reporting on the bird, who was discovered by Melbourne man Kevin Celli-Bird (no relation) on Boxing Day.

The Sydney Morning Herald states that Celli-Bird reported Joe’s arrival to AU, who initially claimed Joe was the severely lost property of an owner in Montgomery, Alabama.

That now appears to have been a error. Still, time is ticking for Joe, whether he’s Australian or not.

While the idea of a wanderlusted avian friend is all well and good, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service wants Joe dead.

There are strict controls over which animals are allowed into Australia, and officials have grave fears for the potential of unexpected visitors to introduce diseases to local bird populations.

This is also the reason why former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce wanted to dome Pistol and Boo, the two Yorkshire terriers illicitly smuggled into Australia by Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.

Keeping with tradition, current Nationals leader and Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack today suggested Joe could be murked as a matter of urgency.

“If Joe has come in a way that has not met our strict biosecurity measures then bad luck Joe,” McCormack told reporters on Friday.

“Either fly home or face the consequences.”

The situation could be markedly different if Joe is indeed Australian.

Now that Joe’s provenance has been drawn into question, the AU has called for mercy.

“It is disappointment that false information spreads so quickly, but we are appreciative that the real pigeon did not stray from the U.S.,” the group said.

If this country can erect a monument to the humble sky rat, then surely Joe can call Australia home.

Image: Nine News