Rufus the Hawk
For many years "Bird has stopped play" was a common and rather frustrating phrase heard on court at Wimbledon. However, since 2000 Avian Environmental Consultants Ltd, based in Northamptonshire, has provided hawks to eliminate the problem.
Rufus (a Harris Hawk) is the successor of the previous hawk, Hamish and his role is to frighten the living daylights out of any bird brave enough to approach the hallowed courts at SW19.
Rufus has fast become one of the worlds most notable and famous birds thanks to his elite performances at Wimbledon. Unfortunately the increased popularity of Rufus does have its risks. In June 2012, Rufus was kidnapped from his handlers car. Thankfully he was found a few days later and promptly handed to the RSPCA. Although Rufus was found healthy, he did not go completely unscathed, courtesy a slightly sore leg.
Imogen Davis, his handler since 2012 told the Telegraph in 2017: “Pigeons don’t know the difference between eating grass seed when the tennis is on and when there is no play, and that can cause big interruptions. As a player concentration is crucial, so we do our bit to limit that disruption."
Imogen then went on to say: “There is an intensive training process, and it is all food-motivated. Harris hawks are not quite like a pet – they don’t just follow you around because they love you – and are one of the few birds in the world that hunt socially; they associate the handlers with food and consider us part of their pack."
"The most important part of my job is to monitor his weight. His optimum flying weight is 1lb 6oz, so if he is at that weight I know that he is going to be keen enough to chase any birds away but not so keen that he is going to grab it and fill himself up on a pigeon.”
During the competition Rufus is flown from 5am, before the gates open.
So the next time you notice a distinct lack of pigeon droppings at Wimbledon...you can thank Rufus!