PopeWatch: Sylvia Hawk

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PopeWatch wishes that the below story from Independent Catholic News did not have a dateline of April 1:

Sylvia and Friend



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.

Ah, if only it were true!  It would be a welcome sign to some wiliness of serpents that has been sorely lacking in the Vatican for too long.

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  1. …what is going to keep Sylvia, after she drives off the crows and seagulls, from making a meal of the peace doves?
    Samuel L. Edwards

    Good question. I asked the Internet and found that the Harris’s Hawk (its name appears to be misspelled in the Independent Catholic News report) prefers to eat small mammals which one might suppose are conveniently supplied by the aviary in sufficient quantity to satisfy Sylvia’s appetite for meat. All Sylvia has to do is show up and look hawkish to drive off the crows and gulls.

    By the way, Sylvia might also be helpful in deterring abuse of the Vatican’s finances. She has a hawk’s eye for detail, a nasty bite, and it so happens that the Harris’s Hawk is named after a financier. Hmm.

    P.S. To my surprise, I appear to have given up previewing my comments for Lent.

  2. As falconers, my husband and I found this pretty funny–not just the concept of Sylvia the Harris hawk doing patrols, but also the digitally enhanced photo of the hawk perched, parrot-like, on the Guard’s shoulder.

    Good prank, Independent Catholic News!

  3. Ahhh…at last… a tacit admission that execution deters like God implied over thirty times in scripture.

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