Rufus the hawk rules the Wimbledon skies

Thu Jul 2, 2015 8:07am EDT
 
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - Male tennis players from the United States are almost as rare as hen's teeth at Wimbledon this year, but a hawk native to North and South America definitely rules the roost when it comes to clearing the championship courts of pigeons.

Every morning at dawn, a Harris hawk named Rufus, with his distinctive yellow-hued beak, patrols the skies over the tennis complex in southwest London.

The hawk's job is to scare the living daylights out of the pigeons who not so many years ago occasionally interrupted play as they strolled around the courts, searching for food and doing what pigeons do.

For Rufus, pigeons are food, though the bird's handlers and trainers, Wayne Davis, his wife Donna and their daughter Imogen, do their best to keep Rufus's appetite balanced so the hawk will scare the pigeons but not eat them.

That is part of the art of falconry as it has been practiced for more than 2,000 years, said Wayne Davis, although he cannot guarantee that Rufus will not occasionally go for the kill.

"Thousands of years of evolution have dictated that's what he should do," Davis said, speaking over the phone from the family home in Northamptonshire, about what could happen if Rufus spots a pigeon and is feeling a big peckish.

"We haven't evolved a hawk to catch things for our own purposes -- we're just utilizing its natural abilities," he said.

Rufus has become something of an avian star at Wimbledon, his picture taken by countless photographers and television crews. He even has his own Twitter account @RufusTheHawk.   Continued...

 
Imogen Davis poses for a photograph with Rufus, a Harris Hawk used at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships to scare away pigeons, in London June 24, 2013.     REUTERS/Eddie Keogh