The pigeon, named Armando, is considered to be the best long-distance racing pigeon “of all time” according to PIPA, the website that organized the sale. The bird has been dubbed by some as the Lewis Hamilton of racing pigeons, in reference to the Formula One racing driver.
PIPA said Armando is the most expensive bird ever to be sold at auction by a huge margin. The next most expensive is believed to be a bird called Nadine, which fetched more than $450,000 at auction in 2017. The buyer was a Chinese fancier named Xing Wei, according to media reports at the time.
Joel Verschoot, the Belgian breeder who put Armando up for auction, sold a total of 178 pigeons at auction for more than $2.5 million, including 7 of Armando’s offspring. He also sold a bird named Contador, which fetched more than $225,000, per PIPA.
Pigeon racing has become increasingly popular in parts of China among the country’s elite and its middle class.
Sun Yan, the deputy general-secretary of Beijing Changing District Racing Pigeons Association, said at least 100,000 pigeon breeders live in Beijing, and almost 90,000 of them are registered with Racing Pigeons Associations in different levels, to qualify for the games held in the spring and autumn.
Competitions can be lucrative for bird owners, with some prizes amounting to tens of thousands of dollars.