Why Do Pigeons Always Have Missing Toes?

You probably have seen pigeons with missing toes if you live in cities. Many people assume these birds have lost their toes during a fight with other birds, but this is not always the case.

Why Do Pigeons Always Have Missing Toes? Pigeons always have missing toes due to accidents, or when they get stuck with hair or thread that winds tightly around their feet. Furthermore, exposure to toxic chemicals, hair, and a polluted environment can cause severe foot infections leading to loss of toes. Moreover, it can occur due to severe injuries, inherited abnormalities, and aging. They have 3 digits on the front side, while one is present on the backside.

There are many theories that explain its cause. However, researchers always have a conflict of opinion about these theories.

Here, you can learn about all the possible causes and research leading to such deformities in pigeons.

How many toes does a pigeon have?

They have toes that help them stay stable on the ground. They can grasp any surface firmly with their help.

Moreover, they can efficiently climb, swim, and hold food due to this body feature. All the pigeons usually have four digits.

Moreover, one is on the backside, while three are on the front side. The front middle digit is the bigger one and has a long nail.

Their different direction helps them perch to different points and get a good hold over a tree branch.

Almost all the birds have four digits, while an ostrich is an exceptional case having only two.

What are the reasons for missing toes in pigeons? 

Many reasons account for the loss of toes in birds, including pollution, genetic abnormalities, and natural accidents.

Inherited abnormalities

Genetic factors can contribute to the determination of the number of toes in pigeons. It can lead to abnormalities in which their number can increase or decrease and appear completely missing.

The foot problems pass from parent to the newly born, leading to deformities like swelling in the digits.

Moreover, any or all the digits can be missing, or even loss of an entire foot is also observed in some birds.

It occurs due to abnormalities or changes in the genetic makeup due to exposure to Ultraviolet rays and hazardous chemicals.

Exposure to chemicals 

Some people spray toxic chemicals on the boundaries of their roofs to get rid of the birds. Their droppings make the roof dirty and foul-smelling.

These toxic chemicals are not suitable for them and can cause damage.

Tangled hair 

It is common to see tangling hair or thread around birds’ feet. In the same way, the plastic bags can also wrap around them and form a knot.

The knot winds firmly around their toes and restricts their blood supply. As a result, they fall off their bodies due to loss of blood circulation to the specific area.

The birds suffer from pain due to tissue death when their digits get stuck in the thread, as it can also cause severe infection.


You can see adult birds with damaged toes as they begin to lose them with time. However, they are common in the young ones because they do not go out of their nests to search for food.

While the adult ones have to move around the environment and collect food to feed their young babies, they risk losing foot digits as they can get stuck in some place.

Foot infections 

The healthy birds have complete toes that are not fighting with germs to survive. Their excrements are acidic and not even good for those who have excreted them.

They contain a lot of germs like bacteria and viruses, which can infect the feet that are directly in contact with them.

They share a common nest and live inside an enclosure to get their feed inside the cage.

Moreover, they are not removed from the cage for waste excreting, so they release droppings in the same place.

The foot or the digits fall off their bodies when they suffer from gangrene. However, you can see the formation of tumors due to severe deformities caused by avian pox.

Environmental pollution

It has been proved through deep research that the birds present in urban areas usually do not have complete toes.

However, the pigeons from less populated areas have all four digits. Therefore, there is a direct impact of pollution in the air on their feet.

According to our research, almost 20 to 22% of the pigeons have missing toes and have 2 or 3 digits at maximum.

Serious injury

They can lose their foot digits accidentally due to a severe injury. Some people put anti-pigeon spikes on their roofs to avoid these birds.

These sharp objects can damage their feet, losing a single or all of them.

Therefore, it is better to avoid using such dangerous things and use other means like repellant sprays to stop them.

What kind of problems do pigeons face due to missing toes?

The birds have to face serious complications and risks to their safety due to the absence of toes. They have to live a tough life without having a complete set of digits.

Easier predator attack

These birds are can be attacked by predators with impressive flying speed.

The hawks capture these small birds with claws and eat them within minutes.

However, they have a lower risk of attack by the predators in the populated areas instead of in non-urban places.

Difficulty in reaching the food

They use it to hold the food particles firmly. As a result, they cannot access their food and find it difficult to transfer it to their nest without having digits.

It can create a problematic situation and affect their survival. It becomes challenging to take food to their young babies who cannot fly and collect their food.

Unbalanced standing

A set of four digits complete their feet that help them stand appropriately on the ground. However, it creates difficulty in maintaining stability with 1 or 2 missing digits.

Furthermore, they can survive single-legged, but living is not comfortable.

Unable to groom

Without toes, they cannot clean their feathers properly when something gets stuck in them.

They visit many places in a day, from a garden to a garbage can, and the dirt of food can get inside their feathers.

It is essential to clean them frequently, but they cannot groom their feathers and appear dirty. It makes them less attractive and gives them a filthy appearance.

How can I help a pigeon with missing toes?

You can detangle the wrapped hair or threads around their feet, leading to loss of foot digits.

Moreover, there are life-saving procedures to treat their injured feet to avoid swelling.

For example, get a de-stringing kit or all the relevant tools like a tweezer to cut off the thread.

You can also need a sanitizer and a paper towel in case of bleeding from a swollen area.

Then, make it feel comfortable by keeping it softly inside your hands.

It will struggle to get out of your grip, but you must calm it down by handling it correctly.

Then, start to detangle the thread slowly. You have to be more conscious if the thread or hair has cut in its legs and is poorly tangled.

It takes more time to remove the thread to avoid bleeding. Dispose of the thread properly so it can not damage them.

Clean the foot of the pigeon and sanitize them to avoid entering germs from the cut.

In addition, it avoids the formation of stringfoot and the falling of the digits.

What do pigeon owners say about this?

I surveyed 729 people having pigeon pets in their homes to know about the ratio of causes of damaged toes.

Out of 729 people, 502 people (69%) said it commonly occurs due to accidents or injuries. However, 168 people (23%) said it happens due to diseases causing severe foot infections.

While the remaining 59 people (8%) said, it could be due to genetic abnormalities.

Most of the pet owners’ reviews focused on injuries and accidents, while some considered diseases and genetic issues as the reason.

“My pigeon got a severe foot infection two weeks ago, leading to the loss of digits.”

“My pigeon had missing toes after three days when he got injured due to wire on my roof.”

“A newly born pigeon in my pet cage has missing limbs, and there is no reason except genetic abnormality because it remains inside the cage all the time.”

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