- Rufus the Hawk keeps Centre Court pigeon free
- He is a cult figure at the grand slam tournament
(CNN)Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Pete Sampras: Wimbledon’s historic Centre Court has been graced by the greatest champions in tennis.
But in recent years, one character has consistently ruled the roost — and he isn’t seen wearing tennis whites.
Rufus the Hawk is responsible for making sure the courts at the All England Championships remain free of pigeons which can interrupt play by pecking at grass seed.
“Rufus’s job is to be the chief pigeon scarer here at Wimbledon,” his handler Imogen Davis tells CNN.
“We’re here all year round, but we start at 5 a.m. every morning during the championships.”
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Tournament officials used to be responsible for swatting birds away from pristine lawns. But after that proved ineffectual, other methods were sought out.
In 1999, Hamish the Hawk was brought to SW19, and several years later he was replaced by Rufus, a Harris’s hawk, who has been scouring the courts regularly for the past decade.
It’s a job that has earned him attention from some of the tournament’s most famous faces.
“I feel like his agent,” jokes Davis. “He’s met Andy Murray, he’s met Nadal. We had a chat to Boris Becker the other day.
“We’re nearing 10,000 followers on Twitter. 10,000 for his 10th anniversary — I think that’s a good number.”
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One of his fans stands out more than most. Chris Fava arrived at this year’s Wimbledon dressed as Rufus, kitted out in yellow tights, a feather cape, and an old bomber hat closely resembling the one worn by the hawk.
But fame has also come at a cost. In 2012, Rufus was kidnapped from the back of a car and it took three days and a widespread social media campaign before he was safely returned to Davis.