Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Why are pigeon's feet seldom normal? ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Why are pigeon's feet seldom normal?
Category: Health > Conditions and Diseases
Asked by: ansgarjohn-ga
List Price: $2.00
Posted: 10 May 2004 15:29 PDT
Expires: 09 Jun 2004 15:29 PDT
Question ID: 344307
Maybe this question should be in miscelaneous?

In Amsterdam where I live and as far as I can recall in every city I
have been I have noticed something strange. A remarkable number of
pigeons are missing toes or complete ankles. They have strange growths
on their feet and limp around.
Is this the same all over the world? 
What is the cause?
Can pigeons survive for longer periods with these sorts of handicaps?
Just wondering...
Subject: Re: Why are pigeon's feet seldom normal?
Answered By: pinkfreud-ga on 10 May 2004 16:02 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
I've noticed large numbers of pigeons with abnormalities of the toes
and feet in every urban area I've visited. The life of an urban bird
is not an easy one; pigeons can acquire deformed feet in several ways.
The main causes are diseases ("pigeon pox" or "bumble-foot") and
injury from entanglement in synthetic threads such as fishing line.

I often see pigeons with extremely distorted feet and this seems to be
true of city-dwelling pigeons throughout the world. It is not as
common among other creatures (including other birds) in urban
environments. Can anyone tell me what causes these deformities?
Heather McDougal, London 
The deformities on pigeons' feet are caused by infection with
Staphylococcus. The common name for the condition is bumble-foot. The
bacteria, which are present on the skin and in the pigeons' droppings,
get into the foot through cracks in the skin and eventually cause
tendinitis, arthritis and joint abscesses. The condition in feral
pigeons is incurable."

New Scientist: Questions & answers on everyday scientific phenomena 

"There are several causes of deformity in pigeons. 'Pigeon pox' is a
disease that causes growths and deformities of the feet. Vitamin B
deficiency can cause paralysis.

Overgrown beaks are fairly common; the excess growth will often break
off by itself and the birds can usually still feed. Synthetic threads
caught on their toes or feet can cause the loss of toes, whole feet,
or unpleasant wounds."

Eastbourne Borough Council: Feral Pigeons

"Deformities of the feet are caused mainly by disease and injury and
are most noticeable among ground feeding species, especially in urban

Cuts to the feet can allow infection to occur which may result in
swelling and lameness... Avian pox can cause wart-like growths on the
feet of house sparrows, starlings and pigeons...

A common disability among urban birds is the loss of all or part of a
foot due to a discarded thread or wire, while discarded fishing line
can have a similar effect in the countryside. Many birds can survive
an amputation but any resulting infection will usually prove fatal.
Congenital deformities involving extra or missing toes are rare and
gross abnormalities, such as an extra leg, do not survive."

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds: Bird deformities

Regarding the matter of whether this sort of handicap will affect the
pigeon's ability to survive, this is likely to be determined by the
competitiveness of the environment. If food is plentiful and predators
are few, an injured pigeon may do quite well. Several years ago I
worked in a downtown office. A regular fixture of the sidewalk outside
the building was a pigeon that my co-workers named "Pete." Pete was a
one-legged bird, which meant that he could neither walk nor fly
normally. However, he was resourceful enough to scavenge enough food
to stay fit and active for more than five years. Pete was finally
brought down not by starvation, but by an automobile that failed to
yield to him as he was crossing the street.

Google search strategy:

Google Web Search: "pigeons" + "feet" + "toes"

Google Web Search: "deformity OR deformities" + "pigeons" + "feet"

I hope this information is helpful. If anything is unclear, please
request clarification; I'll be glad to offer further assistance before
you rate my answer.

Best regards,
ansgarjohn-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Very good answer. I also learnt about the OR option for searches.
That's helpful. I think my brother had Staphylococcus on his hands
when he was younger.

There are no comments at this time.

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy