Monday, April 11, 2011

Why do so many pigeons have missing toes, or missing feet?

Q. Why do so many pigeons have missing toes, or missing feet?

A. This is something I have wondered as well. For a while I thought they were lost in fights with cats and rats. I've never seen a pigeon fight either of these animals but my cartoon informed brain was content with this answer for a while. For a short time I thought, perhaps, pigeon toes are a sought after treat for homeless people. I soon realized this was unlikely. If you really think about it, it doesn't make a lick of sense... I mean, wouldn't they just eat the whole pigeon? Why stop after a couple of toes?

Really, I didn't know, so I consult my friend Megan Wolfe. She's not a pigeon expert but she has drawn and photographed hundreds of the little things. This is what she had to say:

There's a few reasons why pigeons are missing toes or have nubby feet. One of which is they sometimes fight with each other and get mangled, another is they snag themselves on stuff (sometimes those things people put on buildings to prevent pigeons from perching). Life is pretty tough out there for our fair city's rock doves.

However, I think the most common reason for mangled feet is actually diseases - stuff like pigeon pox, or bumble-foot. Someone at one of my shows mentioned this once.. which is pretty disturbing. They can also be born with deformities, but I've seen some so bad it had to be a parasite or infection of some kind.

Anyways, that's pretty much all I know. Unfortunately I don't know much about the diseases because even though I might draw them, pigeons aren't my most favorite animal ever (although they are pretty cool - other countries actually race them! As well as breed schmancy pigeons with huge plumage and anime eyes). Hope this helps!


Thanks Meg. If you want to see her artwork you can check it out here: Megan's pigeons


  1. I agree what kind of feet do pigeon's have?

  2. I think some of the cause is by frostbite.

  3. Yes, I "adopted" a couple of pigeons, one of them has one of his (I think he is a male due to his size, females are gen. smaller) feet in really bad shape and looks like he is in pain, so I make sure that a least during this frigid Winter they have food on a regular basis. I love all animals, and pigeons and sparrows deserve respect for enduring temps. as low as minus 40.