Saturday, February 18, 2017

Sepia Saturday: Feed the Birds

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday photo challenge is EASY! Children feeding pigeons in a busy town square – doesn’t everyone have a photo like this? OK, maybe not. But I have the perfect match in one of the most popular town squares in the world.

The minute Jordan, Zoe, and I stepped inside Piazza San Marco in Venice, all we could hear was the flapping of wings and the cooing of pigeons. Hundreds of pigeons. Maybe thousands, who could count? For a time we were frozen in place, unsure which way to go or how to navigate through the throng of birds.  

Then I saw a little boy, so still, so quiet, almost like a statue. The birds came to him.

St. Marks Venice 2004

Oh, I had to have a picture of that! And I had to have my girls have the same experience. Reluctantly they stood and suddenly they too became a human perch covered in birds.

Venice 2004 Jordan and Zoe feeding birds
Venice 2004 Jordan and Zoe feeding birds 

Of course, once that novelty wore off, the hand sanitizer came out!

At the time, we were unaware that Venetians do not like tourists encouraging the birds by feeding them (even though there were plenty of licensed vendors selling bird seed – I assume they were Venetians). Bird poo is not welcome on the beautiful historic buildings, especially the façade of St. Mark’s Basilica. In fact, in 2008, a law was passed making feeding pigeons in Venice illegal.

Scrapbook page Italy 2004
My scrapbook page 

Had my mother been along on that trip, she would have freaked out. She hated birds. Not just real, live birds. She hated bird motifs in fabric. Bird motifs in wallpaper. Paintings of birds. Bird jewelry. Unless it was a chicken she could eat, she automatically hated it. I don’t know if she was born hating birds or if her hatred was a result of an incident in our front yard sometime in the mid-1960s.

Gillis Road 1960s
Our house in Cradock in the 1960s. Birds nested in the bush
in front of the fireplace.

There was a nest of baby birds in a bush in front of our house. Momma held my little sister on her hip, and the two of them peered in closely to get a good look at those cute little beaks open wide. That’s when Momma Catbird came home with dinner. She did not take kindly to those two nosey humans getting close to her babies. She flew at my mother and pecked her head. My mother got the message loud and clear. She and my sister went running. So I know for sure Momma hated birds after that.

As for my sister and me, we like birds. We like filling the bird feeders and keeping all the song birds and finches happy. But we know better than to go looking for occupied nests.
photo courtesy Mary Slade Pollock

Watch the birdie at Sepia Saturday!

© 2017, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. Spot on with matching the prompt. I was in Venice about four years ago and there were nowhere near so many birds; they must have got the message. Regarding your concerns about feeding the birds in your yard (mentioned on another post); I think it’s fine as long as it’s the correct food. It’s the processed meat etc which is not good for their avian tummies.

  2. It's wood pigeons that visit our garden every day, fortunately in ones or twos. No need to feed them they manage to find plenty for themselves.
    I would love to go to Venice but would try to avoid that many birds.

  3. A great match for the prompt. I can understand why your mother disliked birds after that experience. Pigeons in our garden are marauders, out to steal anything I put on the bird table.

  4. I have a rather fetching photo of me aged about 3 in Venice feeding the pigeons complete with one of those little straw boaters like the ones the gondoliers wear.

    1. You should have included that photo in your post Alex!

  5. I can understand why your mother wouldn't be keen on birds after that incident, although not sure that it should have set her totally against them. Being swooped by a protective parent bird is not pleasant, with mgpies and hooded spurwings being the main culprits here in Aus, where they can be known to terrorise theie local neighbourhood.

  6. Brilliant snaps! The other day I spotted a red laser beam dot bouncing around the warehouse ceiling of my local Home Depot. When I asked what it was, a stock clerk said it was a device to discourage pigeons roosting in the rafters. And the rafters already had lengths of spiky wire that were supposed to do that. And a recording of a high pitch hawk whistle. And a fake owl and a rubber snake. Pigeons are not so easily fooled.

  7. Wow what an experience with the pigeons in Venice, but it totally freaked me out. I am afraid of pigeons, why I do not know. We do have them here in Phoenix and when we lived in the San Diego area. In San Diego where we walked the dog, there were lots of pigeons in the parking lots. I was always afraid hubby would hit one as he drove to find a parking place but they always scattered. Here two I think were trying to make a nest on one of the ledges in our front yard. They scared me because they would fly off of that and I thought they would fly into the window. It was right by where I was working. We did get those spike type of things (safe for birds, but it deters them) because I just knew I couldn't put up with them having a nest up there. Thankfully they decided it was not a suitable place :)

    However, I love quail :)


  8. I was dive-bombed by a mother hummingbird once when I was trying to save one of her babies that had 'fallen' out of the next. It had tried to fly but wasn't quite ready, actually, & fell on the ground. I found it and put it back in the nest but that mommy bird - not understanding what I was doing with her baby, of course - was pretty ticked off at me. I love birds . . . except not so much blue jays. They're mean and go after smaller birds. Baby blues are cute, though, & I fed one out of hand for a couple of weeks once when we were vacationing at my favorite lake.

  9. I love birds, Wendy, I feed them at home. I go bird-watching on occasion, especially when I’m abroad. The coo of the wood pigeon is even one of my favourite sounds. But when it comes to the flapping, dirty, city pigeons, I’m with your mother - that’s what nightmares are made of! I remain in awe of your wonderful photo collection.

  10. Great photos for this prompt, Wendy, and great stories to pass down, too.

  11. Love the way you used this prompt to tell several stories. What great stories! (And, you're making me consider playing along!)