The pigeon population of St Mark’s Square has been reduced from an estimated high of 20,000 to barely a thousand, authorities claim.
The blitz began in May, when the lagoon city banned the vendors who sold grain to tourists wanting to feed the birds.
Pigeons were eating away at centuries-old statues and buildings by pecking at nooks and crevices to reach for scraps of food that had lodged inside. Their highly acidic droppings also damage brickwork and marble.
“Just a few months after the feed ban most of the square is free of the animals who have moved off to find food on the islands,” said Renata Codello, Venice’s superintendent of architectural and cultural heritage.
The pigeons had “almost completely disappeared” from the Doge’s Palace, once their favourite place to gather, she added.
The battle against the birds is part of a wider campaign, launched in 2005, to improve the decorum of tourists and restore the image of the city, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Last year, stewards began patrolling St Mark’s Square and other popular sites reprimanding tourists who discarded food wrappers and other litter, dangled their feet in canals and fountains or walked around bare-chested.
The city’s guardians also hailed the success of an experiment in which a corner of St Mark’s Square, the Piazzetta dei Leoncini, was cordoned off to prevent it being littered or used by people sleeping rough.
“For the first time in years one of the most beautiful places in the city isn’t full of rubbish,” said Augusto Salvadori, Venice’s municipal councillor for tourism.