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Vatican says hawk claim was prank

08:25 Thu Apr 10 2014

The Catholic weekly Credere (Believe) has been caught in a delayed April Fools' prank about the Vatican recruiting a hawk to protect the pope's doves after two were killed by a crow and a seagull.

The publication said a bird of prey named Sylvia, who was specially trained for the task in northern Italy, has been taken on by the Swiss Guards following the incident in January.

But a Vatican official told AFP the report, which was due to appear in the Italian weekly's Thursday edition and was relayed by other newspapers, was an "April Fools' they picked up".

Doves are traditionally released from the Vatican a few times a year as signs of peace.

But when two children let fly the white-feathered birds from the window above St Peter's Square on January 26 this year, they were caught in a brutal mid-air attack in front of horrified onlookers.

The use of birds of prey to scare off unwanted pests is not new: they are often used at airports and football stadiums to get rid of pigeons and have even been deployed at Rome's historical monuments to preserve them from pigeon droppings.