The pigeon, named "Armando," sold Sunday after a close bidding duel between two potential buyers from China, according to PIPA, a Belgian auction house for racing pigeons.
"The two Chinese had told me in advance that they absolutely wanted Armando, "Joël Verschoot, who auctioned the bird, told The Guardian. "But I didn't see this coming. This is a crowning glory of all those years in the pigeon sport. The icing on the cake."
Armando, who is 5 years old and nearing retirement age, has an exceptional sense of direction and remarkable wing strength, Verschoot said. When it comes to performance, Armando is a standout among his pigeon peers. He's placed first in several races and is considered the "'best long distance pigeon of all time," according to Armando's profile on PIPA.
Armando broke another record with his sale as the most expensive bird to be sold at auction, CNN reported. The previous record-holder was a pigeon named Nadine, who, according to CNN, sold for more than $450,000.
Pigeon racing has grown in popularity in China in recent years, CNN reported. Jiangming Liu, who works for PIPA in China, told CNN the organization knew bidders would pay top dollar for Armando, but that no one expected the pigeon to sell for as much as he did.
"We're all surprised," Liu said.