New in 2024:
Pigeons of Venice
Pigeons once rivaled cats as the traditional, if unofficial, mascots of Venice. In A Venetian Bestiary, Jan Morris wrote:
Morris added that the city fed the pigeons for many years until an insurance company took on the job as an advertising gimmick in the 1950s. Each day, a company employee would strew corn about St. Mark's Square until the birds descended en masse:
In Venice: A Literary Companion, Ian Littlewood explained the origins of the Piazza San Marco's pigeon colony:
A panoply of pigeons
Today, pigeons have formed colonies throughout the city, and the estimated 100,000 birds far outnumber Venice's 60,000 human residents.
It can be disconcerting to walk down a street and encounter several dozen pigeons flying toward you at head height. They usually miss pedestrians, but not always. Juli Van Zyverden, an American librarian who used to live in Venice, once told me how she'd seen a pigeon collide with an elderly man who wasn't quick enough to duck. The man was bleeding, so she escorted him to a pharmacy for a clean-up and bandage.
A few words on feeding the birds:
Many Venetians are in the habit of leaving out grain or bread for the pigeons of the neighborhood. This is illegal under a decree that the Comune di Venezia issued late in 1997.
Also, sellers of pigeon food have been banned from the Piazza San Marco since 2008, which means it's now more difficult to bait yourself with grain to attract a living coat of pigeons like this American tourist (who apparently wasn't ticklish):
Durant Imboden has
written about Venice, Italy since 1996.
He covered Venice and European travel at About.com for 4-1/2 years before launching
Europe for Visitors (including
Venice for Visitors) with Cheryl
Imboden in 2001.
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