I saw so many beautiful things on my trip but also saw quite a few strange sights, and this is one of them. Late one night when I was walking through Piazza San Marco, I saw a crowd of people looking at something and went over to check it out. At first, I thought it was a pile of dead pigeon bodies that someone had swept up, but when I got closer, I could see them wriggling and realized that they were roosting to keep warm, just like in March of the Penguins! It was very cold that night, and it made me kind of sad that they didn’t have a better place to sleep than out in the open on the pavement.
I’m on the fence about Venice's pigeons. There are way too many of them, for one, and they are kinda nasty, and their poop is damaging to the buildings. And I don’t want them touching me. One day when I was eating lunch outdoors, a flock of them swarmed me and landed on me; one had the audacity to take a bite of my panini! I didn’t like it at all.
But on the other hand, there’s something goofy and endearing about them. I like to look at them, and some of them are beautifully colored, and I like the sound of their coos and the way they walk. And I especially love watching kids play with them and hearing all the laughter and excitement.
A friend in Venice told me about various unsuccessful attempts to get the population under control. Contraceptives in the birdseed didn’t work, and one time the authorities brought some falcons in, thinking a natural predator might help. Well, the pigeons and the falcons became friends!
But they are not predator-free, as I learned in December. One afternoon in the Piazza, I saw a seagull eat a pigeon. I’ll spare you the description and just note that it was mercifully quick. But it kind of upset me, and then I had to think about the fact that “it’s nature” and lots of animals (including me) eat other animals. And it’s not like the pigeons are endangered or anything, but still, something about it made me sad. I don’t like seeing predator/prey footage on nature shows either; I usually close my eyes or change the channel.
On a happier note, here’s my favorite pigeon story from a previous trip (2006, I think). One day I went to Mass in Basilica di San Marco, and an elderly nun came and sat beside me. We were in the Madonna Nicopeia chapel which has an aisle down the middle, and Mass was well underway when a pigeon came strutting down that center aisle, walking straight towards the Madonna and the high altar. The nun and I looked at each other and both got tickled and had to cover our mouths to keep from laughing out loud. The priest just ignored it, and the pigeon took a sharp right at the altar and went somewhere else in the church. It was so funny to almost get rowdy in church with a nun!