Features Aug 21, 2013 at 4:00 am

Seriously. It’s bothering me. Can someone explain it?

illustration by Elizabeth Baddeley


When I worked at the aquarium the bird biologist told me the shore birds would develop a condition called bumblefoot if their pens only had flat surfaces. She said they need to walk on uneaven surfaces to flex their feet and keep this from happening.
So worth waiting for! Thank you, Charles.
I love this.
Man,is this what the stranger is reduced to? Articles about pigeons? This paper IS for the birds...well,anyway,I can also tell you why the pigeon's feet are messed up,it is because to prevent them from roosting up in a awning or on a ledge,near a bussness where they can camp out and bother people for food and get out of the rain,shit on people,and bulid a nest and attack people... So,to stop this, they use SPIKES OR NAILS on the ledge or inside the awning...the dumb birds try to fly and walk on these and they fuck their feet up...they do build nests on these spiky awnings and it cuts up their feet...it is like if I threw thumbtacks and nails all over the stranger office and told you to get to work making this paper for a year in this mess without cleaning it...
Bumblefoot make more sense than anything....
@4 - Why are you not publishing your own newspaper with all this insight you have on things? You are depriving the world of your genius.
It's because those stupid birds waste all their money on COCAINE and MALT LIQUOR.

^^their actual choice of drug is fermented flour. i have pics to prove it, if i could only figure out how to attach a pic to this comment
how long before somebody blames obama?
Darwinian evolution? What the hell does that mean? Is there some other flavor of evolution?
@11 - Lamarckian evolution is pretty well accepted as bullshit, but there it is.

And depending on how narrowly you want to define Darwinian evolution, the domestication and selective breeding of animals might be considered a separate flavor. That is natural selection vs. artificial selection.
Actually, a common answer is frostbite. I don't know why that didn't come up in this article.
Yes yes yes.
I really liked this fucking article, it was very fucking informative. Those poor fucking bastard birds don't have any fucking piece of shit to take care of their mother-fucking problems, and this article was very eloquent in the fucking way it presented the fucking information.

Fucking thanks!
Classic Mudede; It's way too long, but at least it goes nowhere.
Pretty great article, thank you! And here's the rest of the story: Pigeons build nests from whatever straw-like stuff they have access to and, in cities, that means string, plastic, hair, wire, etc. Then, being such devoted parents, they each spend 12 hours a day 3 weeks out of every month sitting with their toes in those tangly nests. They get their feet tangled up and it's the constriction, as described above, that wounds and maims their poor little pink feet. We rescuers call it "string foot". You can see more here- http://www.rescuereport.org/2011/07/stri… and or visit www.PigeonRescue.org
The city I saw this most in was Amsterdam; and since the recent uptick of cycling traffic in San Diego (especially around UCSD) I've noticed a lot more unhappy-footed pigeons here too. I noticed it less in cities I've lived in where pigeons and bikes don't coincide as much (Montreal, Ottawa - which both have a lot of bike traffic, but not in areas where pigeons like to hang out).

Correlation/Causation, but my theory is bikes, and I say this as a cycling fiend.
Many birds lose feet to burns from electric shock. Those wires they roost on are very often live.
The "Usual Suspects" reference was a bad analogy, as well as a gratuitous spoiler. Cut that and 50% of the length, and you'd have a great article (seriously).
#21...maybe Charles was trying to say that Keyser Soze was a superintelligent crippled pigeon.

THAT would be way cool, if you thought about it.

oh, and #8...you might want to do a site search on "Arthur Ziffarelli". That would explain what I was doing in post #7.

Seriously, though-Good piece, Charles.
Great article.
Someone mentioned Bumblefoot as a possible cause. Bumblefoot is definitely an issue in captive pigeons, though I rarely saw any birds come in with it as a pre-existing condition while I was working in wildlife rehab. A lot of them developed it while in long-term care, though.

If I remember correctly it typically occurs as the result of a cut or abrasion,(usually from walking on rough/sharp surfaces, or possibly from standing for too long in a way that causes the pads of the feet to wear away, and become thin enough to absorb bacteria) which then becomes infected.

Bumblefoot can do a considerable amount of damage to the foot, but I've not in my experience seen it only take out one toe. I'm sure it's more than possible though. I've definitely seen pigeons arrive with an obviously dead digit that needs to be amputated, but no signs of bumblefoot.

I don't think it would honestly be a major cause of pigeon foot deformities in specifically wild/feral birds. Yeah, they spend a lot of time on the ground walking on flat surfaces, but what you have to keep in mind is that they are walking on a variety of these flat surfaces, as well as perching in trees and on wires &c. They aren't confined to a limited environment like a captive pigeon would be, and they have the opportunity to move around from one surface to the next. And trust me, they do utilize all those lovely perching spots with their therapeutically different textures. This puts them at a significantly lower risk of developing Bumblefoot.

That's not to say they can't develop other types of infections. (For instance, Staphylococcus aureus is one of the major contributors to Bumblefoot, but there is a wide array of bacteria that can cause an infection).

Infections still happen in wild pigeons, and I'm sure they take out entire feet. But not every infection is Bumblefoot. For instance, bumblefoot has a nasty habit of spreading. It starts pretty superficial, affecting the fleshy part of the foot, but if left untreated it starts to become necrotic. From there the infection spreads to necrosis of the tendons (this is where some birds have the affected digit amputated, and from there it can spread to the bone. That's a pretty crappy place to be. It pretty much equates to amputation of the entire foot. In the final stages the infection spreads throughout the entire body, affecting the brain, lungs, &c. It really paints a grim picture for a bird that develops it in the wild. I'd say the bird is lucky to only lose a limb by the time its through with them.

Despite all that I would still bet infections come in second to stricture in urban environments where human waste is more likely to wrap itself around unsuspecting pigeon feet.

Fun fact: Bumblefoot is also prevalent in captive rodents!
Oh my god this is so embarrassing. Can somebody please get this off the front page?

I wish Seattle were a real city, with actual journalists.
This a lot sounds like something I pitched...earlier this week. I guess the biology information is OK...but it isn't great. Predators do not take pigeon feet; that's one of the most absurd guesses I've ever heard, considering who it came from. Swollen, nasty feet, mostly sounds like pox to me. Missing appendages, sure possibly twine, fishing lines, maybe human hair....but not shit, not spikes to deter pigeons from roosting (which aren't some inhumane installation as the above comment suggested), probably not "pesticides."
Ever think about talking to a wildlife rehabilitator in Washington?! Or maybe an avian pathologist?!
Hey! Wasn't this Brendan McGarry's idea for an article? What is up with that, Stranger? Not cool.
Cause pigeons are rats with wings!

I wonder if pigeon feet remind Mr. Mudede of slave ships or perhaps the subjugation of the working class by our capitalist overlords. If anyone can stuff it into "the narrative" it's Comrade Mudede.
Commander Zero

I love this piece. Never stop, Charles.
When is the article on what good eating street pigeons can be? Or, pigeon vs seagull?
There's some creep in Seattle near downtown who hangs out and catches pigeons and ties up their feet with thread. Some students at Seattle Central reported this to the college's staff. Stop him if you see him doing this!
@26 mind-victim of Judeo-Christian belief that other animals are peons and inconsequential compared to the kingly human being.
Go Charles!
I feel deeply for all these poor, afflicted birdies as my own human feet have recently gone similarly screwy ever since I finally succumbed to that vile, torturous act of self-immobilization otherwise known as "jogging" for the first time ever in my 41 years. Turns out, I am a pretty efficient limper and a gimper who can crawl. That is -- just so long as I can maintain enough forward momentum not to collapse into a weeping, quivering heap or inadvertently head-butt the occasional passing cyclist on the trail as sundry intense pains go throbbing up through my left arch and some grotesque, invisible maniac jabs a thousand tiny little needle pricks into my bulging, increasingly disfigured right big toe. Perhaps -- the more I think about it -- mine is less an affliction than some kind of twisted, monstrous miracle. Who knew a single human being could do so much grunting and spitting. I didn't used to be a grunter or a spitter at all. But I'm definitely grunting and spitting a blue streak now.
Hey Seattle, your F*cked up sister city, Spokane, just had a racial killing.

Wonder what thestranger will talk about next week...more "pigeon feet" topics?

Guess thestranger will wait and see what their marching orders are from Jesse and Al...AND Dear Leader.

If they say there's no story in this killing, well, you can take that to the bank.

Why the hell is this on the front page?
The info in your article is fine, but it doesn't get to the heart of the matter. In the 50's through 80's I never saw fucked up pigeon feet. It wasn't until they started using this netting on overhangs and awnings of buildings and areas like transit centers. There's no way to teach the birds, they figure it out by getting caught and losing toes or feet. Get rid of the netting and we can go back to having more pigeons with pretty pedis.
WAY old stuff! In the 1980's, I visited Paris, France, a number of times and on one of the trips asked my well-connected cousine parisienne about all the pigeons staggering around the city on partial or totally missing feet stumps. She said the city had made a clumsy attempt to limit the messy bird population by scattering pigeon feed laced with avian birth control chemicals. The unexpected result was a slew of physical defects among the pigeon population....... Wait a minute, you don't think she was just messing with me, do you?!?
If you spent your entire life wandering Seattle's streets barefoot, your feet would look f--ked up too!
Same reason as most common cause of toe deformity/loss in humans; diabetes caused by stress and poor diet. Great article, although not enough cloacal coupling.
like man's refuse slowly cuts off pigeons from themselves, so we are cut off day in and day out from ourselves
#39: I saw a guy do that about 6 years ago in the International District. I was like, what the fuck is this guy doing hissing and tying a fishing line around a pigeon's neck and legs?? Then he pretended to let it go or whatever and walked off. When I saw this article I wondered if anyone would comment on that.
Very much enjoyed this. I agree that human hair is awful.
In Las Vegas, this past Febuary, I came upon a pigeon with one leg. I took photos of this feathered pirate, and fed him French fries. He had a technique of holding off the others by doing this weird thing with his wings. They were outstretched and he did a little circular dance.Until I was yipped at by the Fremont Street Cleanup clowns for feeding the "vermin" I enjoyed watching this scrappy guy.
Is it possible that the pigeons' feet are infested with mites? I know this is something that happens with chickens' feet.
Wait, wait--I know!!!---pigeons keep getting harassed by the SPD!!!!
Very interesting article on the reasons of missing toes, but the illustration (although very good)is a bit misleading - I expected more information on the depicted deformed foot desease.
just as Andrew responded I'm alarmed that anyone can make $4705 in 1 month on the computer. did you see this web link... C­­­a­­f­­e­­4­­4.ℂ­­­o­­m
@11 pokemon evolution!
Doesnt explain the cancerous tumorfeet I've seen on pigeons in Fremont...
Good to know about the hair adversely affecting them!

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