A hawk named Rufus whose sole job description reads "chase away pigeons" has made a name for himself with this year's Wimbledon Championship tennis tournament.
Rufus has become a star on television -- a Stella Artois commercial features his labors -- and his handler Imogen Davis recently participated in an "AMA" (Ask Me Anything) on the website Reddit.
Between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. each day during the tournament, Rufus, a Harris hawk, is set loose in the sky to cruise the stadiums. He keeps a sharp eye out for pigeons feasting on the famed Wimbledon lawns. He's welcome news to any tennis fan who has had to wait for a pigeon to shuffle off or be chased off the court so a crucial break point could be played between the two non-pigeons holding tennis rackets.
Importantly -- if you're a fan of pigeons, a pigeon yourself, or just someone who would rather not think about piegons in the clutches of hawks -- Rufus does not kill the puffy little pests. According to Davis, Rufus is kept at just the right weight to prevent that.
"We use Rufus as a non-lethal deterrent, so he flies when he’s not hungry enough to eat the pigeons, but not full enough to ignore them either," Davis told the UK Telegraph.
Rufus is six years old, and the savvy predator knows the Wimbledon grounds backward and forward. While the tournament is his primary gig, he flies the grounds year-round, just to keep the pigeons from getting any squatter's rights ideas while the tournament is not in session.
Rufus had a scare in 2012, when he was stolen from the Wimbledon grounds. He went missing for two and a half days before being anonymously returned by thieves, who must have realized, from the firestorm they'd ignited, that they'd be the most wanted people in England if they did not return the famous bird.
The idea to use a hawk to patrol the grounds isn't new. In fact Wimbledon officials have been employing one since 2000. It's just that earlier hawks did not find themselves on television and popular websites.