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Elmo cannot perch. He just doesn’t know how. It may be because he hasn’t got great balancing skills or possibly because he simply doesn’t think he’s a pigeon (people don’t perch!). If you place Elmo on your finger he’ll flap about and turn around, trying to get a footing, and in the end he’ll flutter down to the floor. He won’t stay still enough to perch like a proper pigeon.

Georgie, on the other hand, is a star at perching. She will hold onto your finger with all the grace and ease of a proud pigeon. I think she does it to show Elmo how it’s supposed to be done. She’s got the upper hand. She’s the queen of perching!

:D

One day I noticed something about pigeons – something that I knew before, however, it didn’t really hit home until I saw it first hand. Pigeons have a lot of feather dust on them. More than you may realise.

I watched Elmo preen himself while he was in the sun – and you know that in sunlight you can see dust particles perfectly – well, it was like watching someone empty a vacuum-cleaner bag: dust everywhere!! Dust plumed from his body with every movement he made as he ran his beak through his feathers. And it didn’t seem to stop. The longer he moved the more feather dust escaped and rose into the air in twists and swirls. A veritable dust cloud!

Thankfully, I don’t suffer from any allergies, however, with the amount of feather dust a pigeon sheds maybe it’ll one day get to me. I hope not. I rather like living with my two pigeons (not that I would get rid of Elmo or Georgie if I ever became allergic to them).

More pigeon observations to come. :)


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:

From: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Zoo_p050.shtml

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.

Toe arrangements: a = anisodactyl (e.g. pigeon), b = zygodactyl (e.g. woodpecker), c = heterodactyl (e.g. trogon), d = syndactyl (e.g. kingfisher), and e = pamprodactyl (e.g. swift) (as illustrated in Proctor and Lynch 1993).

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:

P1050190

Georgie's feet

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Elmo's feet

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Dora's feet

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Pidge's feet (Dora's mate)

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

* * * * * * *

References: Proctor, Noble S. and Lynch, Patrick J. (1993). Manual of Ornithology, Avian Structure and Function. Yale University Press, New Haven and London.