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A plucky pigeon that flew across the Pacific Ocean from Japan will be bred by a bird lover in Canada hoping its progeny will make top long-distance racers, an animal rescue official said.
The pigeon was discovered tired and thin at a Canadian air force base on Vancouver Island in westernmost Canada and taken to an animal rescue centre near Comox, British Columbia where it was treated for a common bird parasite and nursed back to health.
"We believe it took off from land in Japan and got confused or got caught up in a storm and got lost before eventually hopscotching its way to Canada, stopping and sleeping on freighters along the way," the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society's Reg Westcott told AFP on Monday.
The one-year-old bird was among roughly 8,000 race pigeons released on May 9 in Haboro, Hokkaido, in northern Japan for a 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) race, according to owner Hiroyasu Takasu, 73, of Ishioka, Ibaraki.
The pedigree bird was among 10 racers owned by the retired businessman, an avid hobbyist.
"I have never heard of pigeons going to Canada. It's incredible," Takasu told AFP in Tokyo.
A pigeon's top range is typically 650 kilometers. This one travelled around 7,000 kilometers.
Canadians contacted Takasu, whose telephone number was on a tag attached to the bird's leg.
He decided not to have the pigeon flown back aboard a commercial jetliner, fearing that the travel back home might kill it unless it receives food, water and appropriate care.
The local Pigeon Racing Society in western Canada offered to take in the wayward bird and set it up with some female birds.
"I'm sure his offspring would be very good long range racers," Westcott said.
Canadian authorities, however, initially weren't sure what could be done with the pigeon.
"They asked us whether he had travel documents and so on, and we said, 'No, he flew here on his own,' and so they labelled it a migratory bird, which allowed us to hand it over, without (having to fill out) a bunch of customs paperwork, to the local pigeon racing society, which offered to give it a new home," Westcott said.
Takasu, who was willing to share the bird's pedigree papers, said he would be pleased if the pigeon found a new life on the other side of the Pacific.
"I would very much appreciate it if there is someone over there who could care for it," Takasu said.
In his 17 years caring for injured wildlife, Westcott said he has only come across one other pigeon that made the incredible two or three week voyage across the Pacific Ocean.
That one landed on a Canadian Coast Guard ship at the height of the avian influenza pandemic that saw millions of birds slaughtered to prevent the spread of the disease, and was eventually sent back to Japan at the owner's expense, he said.