Let's face it. We treat most pigeons pretty shabbily. We shoo them away from downtown sidewalks, leave them shivering in alleys and, when they try to find a little respite in trees, we stud the branches with nails.

No, despite all the good things pigeons have given the world — from one-of-a-kind aerial photography to keeping the mail going in times of war — we're not very good to the average pigeon.

But every now and then a pigeon comes along — a superstar, if you will — who represents a major leap forward for pigeon-kind. It's the kind of leap that forces us to re-examine our relationship with these downtrodden birds. And may even give us occasion to offer a little more kindness to them.

That pigeon may well be Armando.

Someone valued him so much, they paid a record-smashing $1.4 million at an online auction to take the emerald-green feathered bird home. The princely sum was doled out by unknown Chinese buyers through PIPA, an auction house that specializes in pigeons.

"It was unreal, the feeling. It was something out of this world," PIPA CEO Nikolaas Gyselbrecht told the BBC. "In our wildest dreams, we had never hoped for a price like that."

And how did a bird become so coveted that humans would compete to pay a fortune for it? Well, Armando isn't your garden variety pigeon.

The auction listing for Armando the pigeon A typical racing pigeon goes for around $2,700. But Armando is anything but typical. (Photo: PIPA)

According to the auction house, Armando is the "best Belgian long-distance pigeon of all time." At 5 years old, Armando has settled nicely into retirement, reportedly content to pass his bloodline on to the next generation of long-haul flyers.

But what a bloodline it is.

"This pigeon has a race record that has never been matched by any other pigeon," Gyselbrecht told the Press Association. "In football terms you have Messi and Ronaldo — it's that level."

That kind of pigeon pedigree turns out to be in high demand in parts of China where bird-racing is a popular and increasingly lucrative pursuit. And it likely explains why the Lionel Messi of the pigeon world can demand such a handsome price.

Previously, the highest price paid for a pigeon was around $427,800, Gyselbrecht told the BBC, with the average price closer to $2,800.

Even though Armando's value soared far beyond anyone's expectations, he's likely to remain grounded at his new home. The hopes and dreams of his new owners now rest with his children.

And maybe that's also where the hopes and dreams of all pigeon-kind rest.

Maybe Armando and his feathered lineage will be just the heroes pigeon-kind needs — the birds that break through that wall of human indifference and outright hostility.

Maybe one day, pigeons will look back fondly on their Lionel Messi.

And maybe one day, a city square will erect a statue in honor of this trailblazing bird — appropriately, covered in pigeon poop.

Someone just paid $1.4 million for this pigeon
A superstar pigeon named Armando just fetched a record-breaking $1.4 million at auction.