- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 2, 2003

NEW YORK (AP) — Joseph Ida picked the bright-eyed bird out of his flock of 100 racing pigeons as soon as they settled on his terrace. It looked a little tired, thin, run down.

“You could see that he had been out,” Mr. Ida said.

Out is right — about 3,000 miles out.

The pigeon, named Billy, had last been seen three weeks ago north of Calais, France, when he began a 425-mile flight to Liverpool, England, that should have taken seven or eight hours at about 50 mph.

His owner, John Warren, of Liverpool, feared him dead, perhaps victimized by a tough north wind, a broken wing or a falcon.

Instead, Billy showed up about 10 days ago at the pigeon coop in Mr. Ida’s back yard on Staten Island.

Mr. Ida, 67, has been racing pigeons since he was 13 years old. He knew Billy was a racer because of the plastic tape around his legs.

Billy, though, had two bands, and American racing pigeons have only one. Plus, the letters “GB” were on the bands, which meant he was from Great Britain.

Mr. Ida’s friend and fellow pigeon owner, John Lucchese, called another friend with connections in England and read her Billy’s identification numbers. She called the Royal Pigeon Racing Association, which led her to the bird’s rightful owner.

Billy, perched in a plastic kennel with water and a plastic bag of bird seed, left Tuesday evening from John F. Kennedy International Airport for Manchester, England. British Airways was not charging him the $370 cargo fare.

Mr. Lucchese, 69, of Colts Neck, N.J., said he doesn’t think Billy flew to the United States. He said pigeons can fly up to 600 miles a day but need to rest at night, meaning Billy couldn’t have made it across the Atlantic Ocean.

“My guess,” Mr. Lucchese said, “is he landed on a ship that was headed for New York.”

The pigeon seemed to like his visit to America, eating out of Mr. Ida’s hand and getting a girlfriend — one of Mr. Ida’s pigeons.

“He was on a honeymoon for a week and a half,” Mr. Lucchese said.

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