We are all used to seeing pigeons perched on rooftops, window sills and park fountains, and we are equally used to seeing them walking about in public spaces with their distinctive head-bobbing action and their characteristic confidence.
They are notoriously inquisitive and bold birds who feel very at home amongst humans and certainly aren’t afraid to approach a picnic bench if there are sandwiches involved.
These humorous and highly characterful birds are particularly prevalent in cities and towns, and we have become very used to having them around. However, it is very rare to see a pigeon sitting down.
It might seem strange, but if you take a moment to think about it, it is most unlikely that you will ever have come across a sitting pigeon yourself, even though they are all around.
Perhaps you may have seen a pigeon in a roosting position, with its legs tucked under its abdomen in order to keep its eggs incubated, but thanks to the internet, pictures of pigeons sitting with their legs splayed out in front of them have started to circulate.
Indeed, social media sites are full of these bizarre snaps. The sitting pigeons look strangely human when they take up this stance, and many people find the photos hilarious as a result.
However, if you see a pigeon sitting with its legs splayed, it is very likely not posing for a photo opportunity.
Reasons Why Pigeons May Sit With Their Legs Splayed
Pigeons are famous for pecking at anything they can get their backs on, and unfortunately this can lead to their abdomens becoming swollen and engorged.
Rice and popcorn are particularly bad as they expand in the stomach, so avoid throwing them any even when they ask nicely.
Drunk And Disorderly
Another theory is that pigeons sit with their legs splayed after they have eaten rotten fruit.
It is well documented that rabbits become intoxicated when they live in orchards, and pigeons can also become woozy and dosy after eating fermented fruits from bins and sidewalks.
A very likely explanation is that these pigeons have been poisoned from swallowing chemicals placed in water fountains and other water sources to keep them clean.
In all honesty, nobody knows exactly why pigeons sometimes sit like this.
When they are gravely ill and dying they tend to retreat to a quiet place and lie down rather than sit, which is why it is so confusing to see them sitting with their legs splayed in the middle of the sidewalk.
The most likely reason is that the pigeon is feeling too unwell to find a more sheltered place and that the sickness has come on very suddenly.
However, many pigeons who have been sighted sitting like this have gone back to their usual behavior afterwards, so it is unclear whether they were feeling unwell or simply having a pleasant chill out.
Ways To Detect Whether A Sitting Pigeon Is Unwell Or Not.
Does It Walk Away?
If you slowly and gently approach a sitting pigeon and it does not move away from you then it is probably seriously ill.
In most instances it should stand up and wander off looking annoyed that you disturbed its peace.
Is It Breathing Heavily?
If you are able to get close enough to a sitting pigeon you can look to see if it is panting or breathing particularly heavily.
This will indicate whether it is unwell or just having a little sunbathing session. If it is breathing through an open peak then it is a bad sign.
Does It Have An Unsteady Posture?
When a pigeon is about to die it will usually become very unsteady and even fall down.
However, when seated with its legs splayed, check if it is tipping to one side more than the other, or if it is tilting forwards. This will be a sign that the bird is unwell.
Are Its Eyes Half Closed?
Usually pigeons have beady eyes that are full of character, so if you can see that a seated pigeon is squinting or has its eyes fully closed then it is most probably very sick.
Are Other Birds Staying Away?
Finally, if you see a pigeon sitting with its legs splayed, look to see how its friends are responding. If they are milling about as usual then your pigeon may just be taking a quick time-out.
However, if they are doing banana-shapes around it this generally means that it is ill.
If you see a pigeon sitting on its bottom with its legs splayed, think twice before you start taking photos and laughing about it online.
It is far better to check that the pigeon is not distressed, and if you can help to coax it gently to its feet or guide it to a safer spot then all the better.