The Italian Almanac

pigeons in Venice

Italian News - September 11

Nothing says "I've been to Venice" better than a photo snapped with pigeons perched on arms, shoulders, head, breast. Multiply that by, perhaps, a million times a year. The constant feeding has created a pigeon problem in the lagoon city, and feathers are flying. The pigeons are dirty. They carry disease. They are ruining the city's glorious facades and spreading filth in the piazzas. And the mayor wants action.

"In Venice we have a difficult problem, because the birds find food everywhere, and there are millions of tourists who want to take pictures with them," said Mario Scattolin, the top environmental official for the city of 800,000. "We're a small city with a huge influx of tourists." No one knows for sure how many pigeons live in Venice's 2.5 square miles, but the city estimates 40,000. About one-third of them pass through St. Mark's Square on any given day.

Venice already rounds up pigeons regularly and kills the sick ones, but that doesn't seem to stem their numbers. Other attempts have included introducing contraceptives to their food supply and birds that eat their eggs. The animal rights group LAV says the most effective method is to feed them less. But that would mean shutting down the corn vendors at St. Mark's. "They're a powerful lobby," said Massimo Vitturi, an LAV spokesman.

Nineteen families live off the corn sales, Favin says, working two shifts a day at nine stands, with one vendor off each day. On a nice day he makes more than $100, he says; on a rainy day, a tenth of that.