Why Do Pigeons Stand On One Leg

Why Do Pigeons Stand On One Leg – 6 Common Reasons

All pigeon species have two short legs with long and curved claws for enhanced locomotion and perching. 

So then, why do pigeons stand on one leg without falling down? Primarily, they do it to conserve heat, especially during the cold season. However, these birds also tuck up one of their legs when happy, sleeping, or wanting to rest because of extreme muscle fatigue. Also, pigeons may stand on one foot if another leg is injured or missing.

But how do these birds stand on one foot for long periods? Before we answer your question, let’s first find out why pigeons stand on one leg and for how long. 

Why Do Pigeons Stand On One Leg?

Pigeons and other birds often tuck up one leg in the plumage for many reasons. And not only is this normal, but also very comfortable for them. Below are the various reasons pigeons do this.

Why Do Pigeons Stand On One Leg

Conserve Body Heat

Like all birds, pigeons have bare skin patches on their legs. This means their legs are not covered in feathers to keep them warm.

Therefore, during the winter months, blood moving through the bare skin of the leg may lose a lot of heat. This is because their legs are the closest to the environmental temperature.

Keeping one leg elevated reduces the amount of cold blood returning to the body, helping conserve heat. However, the birds must keep alternating between the right and left foot. 

Minimize Muscle Fatigue

Pigeon’s legs do get tired. This is especially common with caged birds only having a one-size perch. Such a perch may not mimic the natural variety of branch sizes in the wild.

In this case, your pigeon’s feet may get cramps. And to reduce muscle fatigue, you may spot the bird standing on one leg at a time. 

Minimize Muscle Fatigue

Additionally, in the wild, pigeons’ legs may tire out because these birds are active all day. So, they will tuck one leg up, allowing the other to rest. 

Good Mood

Sometimes pigeons will hop to the beat on one leg while flapping their wings and moving around. They do this when feeling happy. However, this is more common with caged pigeons.


If your birds have an injury on one leg, they will be standing on their uninjured foot. The pigeons could have string injuries or bumblefoot, a bacterial infection common in birds, including pigeons.

Because of the injury, the affected leg may not bear the bird’s weight. In this case, you may spot the bird standing, limping, or even hopping on just one foot. The good news? If the injury is due to fractured bones, it will heal faster than other animals and humans.

Missing Leg

It is pretty common for urban or feral pigeons to have a missing foot. Sometimes, one of their legs may be amputated due to an injury.

For example, if the foot gets stuck in a glue or rodent trap and the pigeon tries to free itself. The bird may suffer from a severe injury.

In other cases, a pigeon may lose one of its feet to a predator. This happens as the bird tries to escape, and the predator breaks or bites its leg off. 

Here is a video of a physically challenged pigeon with a missing leg:

Change and Comfort

Pigeons and other birds will stand on one leg once in a while for no good reason. This is because most species, like the feral rock pigeons and Jacobin Pigeons, find this standing posture comfortable. Just as you might cross your legs in one way or another at various times. 

Do Pigeons Sleep Standing On One Leg?

Yes. Sleeping with one leg hidden under their plumage is expected during the cold seasons. The sleeping position enables the pigeons to reduce heat loss. As such, the birds can stay warm all night. 

Do Pigeons Sleep Standing On One Leg

Pigeons have many sleeping positions. Sometimes, they may sleep while standing on their two feet or sitting. Additionally, these birds may rest only on their big front claws. In other cases, your birds may sleep standing from sunset to dawn with one foot hidden under.

How Do Pigeons Stand On One Leg?

  • First, it’s because they are adapted for this, similar to most perching birds.
  • Also, their small body weight contributes to their balance. Typically, these birds weigh between 9 -12 ounces. So, when the pigeons place their entire body weight on one of the feet, the leg muscles cause the feet’s tendons to tighten. 
How Do Pigeons Stand On One Leg

Consequently, this keeps the foot closed, giving these birds grip and balance. 

  • Thirdly, it is the design of their feet. Their legs are short but fatter, with three claws in the front and one facing the rear. This allows better perching and provides improved balance when resting on one foot. 

How Long Do Pigeons Stand On One Leg?

This varies depending on why the birds are standing on one foot. For example, pigeons may stand on one leg for extended periods to conserve heat.

How Long Do Pigeons Stand On One Leg

But if the birds just want to rest and reduce muscle fatigue, they usually assume this posture for a short period. The same applies to when the birds are happy.

Meanwhile, if the pigeons stand on one foot due to injuries, this should last until the injured leg is healed. However, if the birds have a missing leg, then they will stand on one foot for the rest of their lives. 

If you’re interested in learning more about pigeon behavior and control, you might find our articles on can pigeons poop while flying and how to keep pigeons off balconies helpful. Our article on can pigeons poop while flying sheds light on the physiological mechanisms that enable pigeons to defecate in flight, while our article on how to keep pigeons off balconies offers practical tips and advice for deterring pigeons from nesting and roosting on balconies. Check them out to deepen your understanding of pigeon behavior and control.


Below, we will respond to commonly asked questions regarding why do pigeons stand on one leg. Check them out.

Q: Why do pigeons stand on one foot in summer?

In most cases, pigeons will stand on one leg in summer because of fatigue. This is because, during this period, the birds tend to be very active. So, to rest, you may see them standing on one foot while alternating with the other one.

Q: Is it only pigeons that stand on one leg?

No. A variety of long and short-legged birds tuck up one foot under their plumage like pigeons. These include geese, gulls, ducks, hawks, swans, pink flamingos, Budgerigar, eagles, egrets, stilts, avocets, rails, and herons.

Q: Do pigeons stand on one leg when grooming?

Yes, pigeons may stand on one foot while preening but in rare cases. In most scenarios, pigeons stand on their two feet and use their beaks to clean their feathers while fluffing them up. This helps get rid of any parasites within their plumage. 


It is undoubtedly typical for pigeons to stand on one leg at any time of the day or year. Sometimes, these birds do this to keep themselves warm during the winter or to rest. Also, pigeons may tuck one of their feet under their feathers when happy or have injured one of their legs.

Additionally, these birds may also sleep while standing on one foot sometimes. And you don’t have to worry that the pigeons may fall because their weight and feet design allows for enhanced balance. Worth mentioning is that sometimes these birds may stand on one foot for longer or shorter periods. 

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