High-flyer: Racing pigeon sells for more than £1.4 million at auction as Chinese bidder swoops

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Stacey Foster

A racing pigeon has cost a Chinese fancier a whopping £1.4 million after being sold at an auction in Belgium.

The sale of three-year-old hen New Kim took took two weeks and the final agreed fee was reached when the bidding came to an end on Sunday.

In the final half-hour of the auction, the bidding heated up as two Chinese parties operating under the pseudonyms of Super Duper and Hitman ruffled a few feathers as they drove up the price by £251,000.

The previous record sale fetched by Belgian-bred Armando last year was left flapping, having cost £314,000 less than New Kim.

New Kim was part of a sale of 445 birds Credit: Francisco Seco/AP/PA

New Kim was part of a sale of 445 birds, with the total price tag at £4.48 million.

A second part of the auction is ending on Monday but did not include any bird that could match New Kim.

Belgians have long stood out as the best breeders, both because of their generations-long experience and the density of a network where many breeders can organise races close together.

“Everybody is interested in our pigeons,” Pascal Bodengien, head of the Belgian pigeon federation, told The Associated Press.

“To be the best, it has to be your life’s work. For some, it may seem boring. Day in, day out. Winter and summer, always those pigeons.”

China often features one-loft racing, where pigeons all get used to one coop for months and then are released many hundreds of miles away to make their way back with their unique sense of orientation and special speed training. Prize pots can reach into the tens of millions of euros.