May 12, 2020
Wildlife Track & Sign: Rock Pigeon
The footprint above (posted to social media on May 12, 2020) is the footprint of a Rock Pigeon in snow, in Old Strathcona, Edmonton Alberta, on April 2nd.
Pigeon footprints are similar to game bird (like grouse and quail) tracks in general size, and in structure except for the length of the backwards toe (called a halux). Pigeons are perching birds, and as such, have a well developed, longer, halux to help them grip branches. The halux of a rock pigeon is roughly 1/2 to 2/3 the length of its lead toe, and it will register in most tracks. Birds that spend a lot of time on the ground like grouse and quail have a reduced halux less than 1/4 the length of the lead toe, and it may not register in the majority of tracks; when it does register, it may only be the tip of the claw that does.
The length and width of bird tracks is helpful for identification. Typical measurements of rock pigeon tracks are 6 cm long (include the halux & claws), and 4.5 cm wide.
Pigeons and grouse tend to leave an alternating (walking or trotting) track pattern. Other birds often hop, leaving a 2 x 2 track pattern.
Watch for bird tracks in snow, sand, and around puddles after a rain. Other birds that frequently leave tracks include ravens, magpies and other corvids, waterfowl, shorebirds, and robins.