Meet the pigeon protectors battling the scourge of stringfoot

Volunteers warn birds are losing toes or whole feet

Thursday, 28th July — By Frankie Lister-Fell

camden28 Image 2022-07-28 at 9.17.23 PM (7)

Mickey Britton and Karen Heath checking pigeons’ feet in Buck Street

EVER wondered why some pigeons have missing feet? It’s not from the cold nor bird brawls, but it is often caused by human hair, threads and string encircling their toes and feet, growing tighter until the limb falls off.

For the past few years, Karen Heath and Mickey Britton have been volunteering with Pigeon Stringfoot and Rescue, which operates around London. Every Sunday, a group of about 10 people meet up and teach newcomers how to safely catch pigeons and remove string from their feet.

But the duo, who live in Camden, often go round the borough more than that and were in one of the borough’s pigeon hotspots – Buck Street in Camden Town – on Tuesday.

“Once you’ve been to a couple of sessions and you can do it on your own you’ll soon find yourself not being able to leave the house without some seed and your kit,” said Mr Britton, who is a musician and sound engineer at the Green Note.

Ms Heath added: “You never leave home without at least your scissors and tweezers and a tiny bit of seed. Even if you’re going to a wedding.”

A pigeon receiving help from Mr Britton

They also often visit Warren Street and Mornington Crescent and train stations.

“In stations, [pigeons] pick up an extra layer of gunk and other little bits of rubbish flows around like tumbleweed and lands on top of shops and shelves where pigeons perch,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking when you see them there because the majority of birds in stations have toes missing or even a whole foot.”

She added that while some passers-by are supportive, they do get “a lot of abuse” and people going out of their way to tell them they should not be helping pigeons.

Mr Britton said: “I really dislike the pigeon debate because not everyone likes them and some people do. The more time you spend with them and you see their characters, the more you appreciate that they are wonderful creatures. They feel pain like anyone else. They’ve got as much right to be here as me.”

Those interested in volunteering can join their Facebook group – London Pigeon Stringfoot & Rescue – SFS.

Related Articles