Rome has been invaded by thousands of gulls – the birds boldly steal food, make a mess on statues and have even attacked the Pope’s doves of peace.
I was on the bus the other morning, drowsily heading for work, but through the window I spotted something that woke me up – a rather gruesome scene.
On the pavement a big, powerful gull was standing over a pigeon it had killed. Then the gull grabbed the carcass in its beak, launched himself over the top of my bus, dropped into a piazza and starting to tear the pigeon apart.
I suppose I still expect gulls to do the sort of things they’re supposed to, like ride the wind on lonely shorelines, follow trawlers, live off scraps of fish – not devour pigeons on city streets.
But in many places these birds are giving up on the sea, and moving to town. Rome is no exception.
For thousands of years it had no nesting gulls. They only began coming in the 1980s, lured by bins and dumps groaning with food chucked away by modern Romans.
Now there are tens of thousands of gulls here and this latest invasion of the Eternal City can be a bit barbaric.
Earlier this year Pope Francis was at his window, high above the masses in St Peter’s Square.
Beside him two children held two, pure white doves of peace. They released them, and the crowd cheered.
Horrifyingly one bird was almost immediately attacked in mid-air by a gull. He got the dove up against a wall of the Pope’s palace, but he only had his prey by the tail.