The Italian Almanac


Italian News - January 20th

Officials say the Roman-era town of Ercolano, south of Naples, has been besieged by flocks of the birds nesting in the remains. Three Harris hawks - named Airon, Gari and Miura - are to be employed to persuade the pigeons to seek an alternative home.

The town of Ercolano, along with its neighbour Pompei, was buried by lava when mount Vesuvius erupted in AD79.

"Pigeons represent a series threat to the conservation of the area," says the authority in charge of the site, "the acidity of their droppings seriously damages the structures and the ancient decorated surfaces. They are constantly pecking at the wooden beams and the carbonised wooden fixtures."

The remaining wooden structures in Ercolano are one of its distinguishing features as the extreme heat and fires generated by the volcanic eruption destroyed all the wood in neighbouring Pompei.

Training the birds will be a delicate task as the hawks must be sufficiently well-fed so as not to attempt to eat the pigeons, but not so over-fed that they do not chase them away.