What do pigeons feet tell us about them? Well, different bird species have different shaped feet and toes according to their diet and the environment they live in:
Pigeons are somewhat classified as a perching bird. They have a classic anisodactyl toe arrangement: three toes pointing forward and one long toe pointing back (the hallux). Because they spend much of their time foraging on the ground their toes are widely splayed, which is better for walking.
Birds actually walk on their toes (called digitigrade) instead of on all of the foot bones (as humans do). To help resist the wear and tear of walking and perching, the bones and flesh of the foot are covered with a tough plating of scales which strengthens the foot (Proctor and Lynch, 1993).
I love pigeons’ feet. They’re just so odd and scaly. Feral pigeons have different coloured feet: some are red or pink, and others are more grey or brown.
George’s feet are a healthy bright red. Very vibrant!
Elmo’s feet are more maroon – rich and full. He’s older so he looks more established.
I managed to take a photo of Dora’s lovely pale pink feet, however, she was more interested in sitting on her nest and defending it against my intruding hands, so it came with a struggle!
I don’t think the colour of their feet show clearly in these photos but you can see some difference in colour:
Often a pigeon will have a nap with one foot tucked up against its body under its feathers. When that foot later emerges it is very toasty! I love touching George’s feet when she does this. One foot will be lovely warm, the other cold.
It seems that older pigeons have thicker legs and toes than younger ones (from the birds I’ve been comparing). They also have richer coloured and darker legs.
Then you have feathered feet! They’re just amazing! While some fancy breeds have short feathers on their feet, others have really long ones, which can cause problems with their walking as well as hygiene (they need to be cleaned often to prevent build up of droppings stuck to the feathers). Some examples: Fancy pigeons at work
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References: Proctor, Noble S. and Lynch, Patrick J. (1993). Manual of Ornithology, Avian Structure and Function. Yale University Press, New Haven and London.