With just a hand full of birdseed every Venice tourist in the historic St. Mark’s Square is able to gather around an avalanche of pigeons.
photo by Dimitry B
Vendors in the area used to sell corn to visitors which enjoyed what seemed to be the most entertaining activities in the plaza. They are now out of jobs, because a municipal ordinance have put a ban on selling and distributing food for the pigeons, from May 1st. Fines for ignoring this decision start from 50 Euro ($77).
One of the vendors, obviously furious about the decission said that this may put an end to a century old tradition and this would be like “removing Rialto or the Bridge of Sighs.” There is truth in his words, but the ban has real motives. The pigeons are eating away at the city’s marble statues, the buildings and the delicate mosaics on the façade of St. Mark’s Basilica, by pecking at small gaps to reach for scraps of food that were blown inside. Cleaning and restoring these monuments is not cheap and a study estimated that each Venetian taxpayer is paying up to 275 euros for the repairs.
In the meanwhile, tourists continued to feed the birds, and if birdseeds where not available, they used potato chips and bread sticks. “Word is” that pigeons really enjoyed changing their diet, in fact they really enjoyed it.
There are over 130,000 pigeons in Venice’s historic center and Sergio Lafisca, the Venice health expert responsible for the Department of Prevention said this led to a 40 times higher rate than the optimal concentration per square kilometer. “Even locusts are cute on their own, but then read what the Bible says about invasions,” he said.
Here is a small picture gallery of St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) with Basilica di San Marc and the pigeons.