Vatican officials today are introducing a new measure to keep St Peter's Square clear of marauding birds. A team in the Swiss Guards has been assigned the task of supervising a Sharris Hawk, which will be brought out during the Weekly Audiences and the Angelus - on Wednesdays and Sundays.
On 26 January this year, two white peace doves were attacked by a crow and a seagull, seconds after they were released from a window in the Apostolic Palace by Pope Francis, accompanied by two young children. One dove lost several feathers in the fracas.
A spokesman for the Vatican Press Office said: "Such an event will not happen again." He explained: "The hawk, which is called Sylvia, was bred in a wildlife centre in northern Italy and is highly trained. Her mere presence should act as a deterrent to any more attacks such as the one which took place in January. In addition however, she will act as an escort and protector to the peace doves after the ceremonies, accompanying the birds when they fly home from Saint Peter's to their aviary, which is about one and a half a kilometres from the Vatican."
With a wingspan of up to 120 cm (47 inches) Sharris Hawks originally come from the southwestern United States, Chile and Argentina. They have dark brown plumage with chestnut shoulders, wing underwings, white on the base and tip of the tail, long, yellow legs and beak.
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