Wimbledon: Rufus the hawk makes sure pigeons don't interrupt play on the courts

Rufus the Harris Hawk, used to scare away pigeons, at the All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 1, 2015.
Rufus the Harris Hawk, used to scare away pigeons, at the All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 1, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

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 south-west 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' 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 practised for more than 2,000 years, said Davis, although he cannot guarantee that Rufus will not occasionally go for the kill.

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.