Why The Pope's Peace Doves Were Viciously Attacked By Other Birds

A peace gesture took an ugly turn on Sunday when two white doves, released after Pope Francis addressed a crowd in Saint Peter’s Square, were attack by other birds.

Here’s a video of the attack, courtesy of the Associated Press:

While some people perceive the attacks as a metaphor for violent conflicts in the world today or a “bad omen,” animals experts have a more practical answer.

The doves were attacked because they were white, says National Geographic’s Mel White. Doves of this colour do not exist in the wild. They are bred in captivity to be pure white for use at events like funerals and weddings. Because of their glaring white coats, they are easy targets for wild birds when tossed out into the open.

In this case, the assailants were a yellow-legged gull and a hooded crow. Both birds “are opportunistic feeders that eat almost anything,” the Washington Post’s Darryl Fears said.

These predators are not that fast or particularly smart, a bird expert told Fears, so the doves managed to break free, while only losing some feathers in the scuffle.

In the aftermath of the bird-on-bird attack, The National Animal Protection Agency is asking Pope Francis to end the practice of releasing doves from the Vatican window, according to the Associates Press.

This is not the first time a peace dove has been attacked in Saint Peter’s Square. As seen in the picture below, a seagull attacked a dove released by Pope Benedict XVI last January.

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