Foreign Affairs
Why do we sometimes notice pigeons with missing toes?

One comes across pigeons in practically every town or city worldwide, including Valletta. Have you ever noticed, however, that some of these pigeons might be missing a toe?

It seems that pigeons lose toes not because of some avian sickness or because they live in filth, as many might suppose, but purely as a result of human hair.

A report resulting from a study carried out by the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN) and the University of Lyon has found that human hair is the main reason for the loss of toes in pigeons. This is because human hair often becomes entangled in pigeons’ legs, reducing blood circulation as a result, and this, in turn, leads to the loss of the toes.

The study adds that pigeons living in wide-open spaces suffer less than their city cousins. Everything, therefore, points to humans causing this loss of toes. The heaviest incidence of pigeons with missing toes has been found in towns and cities with a high concentration of barbershops. This, the experts say, sheds light on the environment and pollution caused by humans.

This study has been published in the Biological Conservation journal.


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