Iowa City Nature Challenge Begins!

The Iowa City Nature Challenge began on April 29, 2022. It’s sponsored by the University of Iowa Office of Sustainability and the Environment. According to their web site:

“From April 29th to May 2nd, find and photograph plants and animals in your backyard, in parks, along city streets, on school grounds—anywhere you find nature in Iowa City. Then, simply use the iNaturalist app to upload your photos and add them to the Iowa City project!”

It sounds fun. Read all the instructions carefully. This reminded me of my own amateur naturalist post back in 2019 about a toeless Mourning Dove.

Video Description from my YouTube post:

This is a rather sad little video about a Mourning Dove without toes who visited our back porch in early August 2018. The first slide is of a bird with normal feet, followed by several shots of the bird with abnormal feet.

There’s a slide with a bird seemingly sitting in its own poop, which is said by some to cause the problem–which is doubtful.

The last shot is that of a pair of doves trying to nest in our window box, which was full of sharp, plastic artificial plants, which was painful to watch and I wonder if their hazardous habits could lead to injuring their feet.

Speculation about the causes of these injuries range from something called string foot (string or human hair used to build nests getting wrapped around toes leading to amputation), sitting in poop leading to infections, and frostbite.

I think frostbite is plausible, and so did a birdwatcher named Nickell, who published an article about it over a half century ago; Nickell, W. P. (1964). “The Effects of Probable Frostbite on the Feet of Mourning Doves Wintering in Southern Michigan.” The Wilson Bulletin 76(1): 94-95, complete with hand-drawn illustrations that look exactly like the one in the video.

String foot is also plausible, but I’m reminded of an essay by E.B. White, Mr. Forbush’s Friends, White, E. B. (1966). “Annals of birdwatching: Mr. Forbush’s friends.” New Yorker. 42(1) or in White, E. B. (1999). Essays of E.B. White. New York, Harper Perennial, in which White recounts the book, Birds of Massachusetts and Other New England States by Edward Howe Forbush, in which you can read one of the many anecdotes from amateur ornithologists about bird behavior that Forbush collected for his book, which was published circa 1929:

“Mrs. Olive Thorne Miller. Reported case of female tufted titmouse stealing hair from gentleman in Ohio for use in nest building. Bird lit on gentleman’s head, seized a beakful, braced itself, jerked lock out, flew away, came back for more. Gentleman a bird lover, consented to give hair again. No date.”– Forbush, Edward Howe, 1858-1929. Birds of Massachusetts and Other New England States. [Norwood, Mass.: Printed by Berwick and Smith Company], 192529. I wonder why a bird would risk string foot by using hair in nests?

Author: James Amos

I'm a retired consult-liaison psychiatrist. I navigated the path in a phased retirement program through the hospital where I was employed. I was fully retired as of June 30, 2020. This blog chronicles my journey.

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