Why Venetian Pigeons Twitch

Keeping time is important to us.

Humans have been setting their sundials and Apple watches for thousands of years, and everywhere you visit you’ll find cultural traditions to help to tick the days away.

The glockenspiel in Munich keeps the Germans to task. In the Cape of Good Hope, the canon on Signal Hill frightens children daily at twelve noon. Prague’s orloj, the famous astronomical clock, dances elaborately on the hour for thousands of tourists every day. (You may have heard that this was voted the 2nd most overrated attraction in the world. You should definitely ignore that.)

And in Venice, every day, a seagull eats a pigeon in the Piazzo San Marco

If you’ve ever ventured out of your front door, you’ll know that pigeons in town squares are inevitable. And if you think the pigeons in this town’s seem a little more nervous than others, you’d be right. At least once a day, one of them gets sacrificed to the Gullish overlords, and is violently devoured before the gathered crowds. There’s not much that can put you off of an Italian meal, but this might do the trick.


I said seagull, but these guys bear a closer resemblance to pterodactyls. They’re massive, loud, and 100% carniverous. They have no sense of personal space, or decent respect for boundaries. They will fly at your head, and you will have to duck or be impaled.

The gulls, at least, have their heads above the water. 

You can’t set your watch by it (but in Italy, who needs one?), but you can certainly set your calendar. The local tour guides will waste no time pointing it out, with a faint air of proud amusement. Their city might be sinking, the showers might be minuscule, but at least the seagulls are winning the evolutionary race.

Are pigeons and seagulls closely related enough for this mildly disturbing occurrence to be called cannibalism? Whatever it is, it’s a bird eat bird world up in the Venetian skies.

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