Halvsie, the two legged BIRD? WTF?

Okay, so this morning I’m walking from the Metro to my office, and I have to pass through a park and a couple of intersections. In the three blocks between Farragut West and Conn. Ave at M Street, I notice no fewer than FIVE pigeons with one leg. The other leg seemed normal enough, but the affected limb had been replaced with a little pigeon-nub–a smooth stump. It sort of looks like they’re pirates, which, of course, made me think of an army of pigeons strutting about in little eyepatches and peglegs, muttering
“ARR! Jim lad! Coo!Coo! Pieces of eight! Coo”
which made me laugh like a crazy person all the way up the elevator.

Is this just an urban thing, or do pigeons in the country have it too? Any other urban Dopers have any ideas about how the pigeons lost their legs? On the way back from lunch I saw one that had NO legs-just the little pigeon stumps. Sort of rolling, he was.

SEE! SEE!! It’s not just me noticing this!

Oh, sure. When it’s Inky saying “Hey, does it seem like there sure are a whole lotta’ one legged birdies gimpin’ around?” everybody thinks I’m sniffing glue.

HALVSIE the TWO-legged bird? Hang on, let me grab the calculator and do some math here…

Yep, thought so. Well, someone was going to give you a hard time about that. Might as well be me.

An interesting discussion on toe loss was going on in BIRDBAND-L a few months ago. Some folks noticed that Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura) and Rock Doves ([Columba livia*) were particularly prone to this. One guy said “I get many birds with only partial toes and occasional birds with no toes at all, just legs with a stubby end.” They attributed the loss from frostbite to avian pox.

I bled (just a drop or two) about 130 Rock Doves a month ago - I didn’t notice any missing limbs or pox (we did toe bleeds) but we did come across one dove that was nearly blind. I have no idea how it survived this long. Damn tough birds. On the other hand, the American and Fish Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos and ossifragus) that we bled in 1999 had lots of pox, but no missing toes. This year, they were pretty pox-free and also had all their toes.

Given that toe-fee forms of doves and pigeons have been seen in Texas (someone on the listserv said the birds were more likely to have their toes melt off than freeze off), as well as other mild climates, I’m a little baffled as to why they can’t hang on to their digits.

The BIRDBAND listserve is at:

Hey, Inky-, I remember that thread (about the hurt sparrow) and your observations. I think I was thrown by your comments of “little birds” and assumed you were talking about House Sparrows. My own experience with House Sparrows is that they usually come with the full set of limbs. And this is a common question asked about sparrows and other birds (“Where’s their leg” - it’s generally pulled up when cold). Well, the listserv discussion also cited several smaller species, so you could well be seeing diminished sparrows.

Wouldn’t be the first (nor the last) time I’ve been wrong.

OK, yes, yes I fully am aware that birds have TWO legs, but I was trying to hitch my star to Crunchy Frog’s wagon with this Halvsie, the two-legged dog thread. Maybe rats gnaw them off? Fights with other pigeons?

BTW, Brachy, these birds definitely have NO second leg.