If you don’t know Rufus, you’re not a real tennis fan.
Since 2007, Rufus the Hawk has been scaring off pigeons, protecting Wimbledon attendees and players from flying bird feces and game delays. The birds of prey first appeared high above All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in 2000.
Rufus’ handler Imogen Davis, also his social media manager and the director of Avian Environmental Consultants Ltd., told the Telegraph employing hawks to ward of pigeons was an ingenious idea.
“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,” she said.
Not just any old hawk can land such a prestigious gig. Davis said each bird goes through “an intensive training process,” all of which is motivated by food.
That said, the hawk handler makes sure Rufus and her other hawks don’t get too greedy during training. Davis said monitoring their weight is “the most important part” of her job.
“His optimum flying weight is 1 Lb., 6 Oz., 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 pigeon,” she shared.
Although hawks are hunters by nature, Davis said Rufus’ work is “incredibly tiring.” The two are up at 4 a.m. before a match and, during the championships, work until about 10 a.m.
Through his training, as well as his many years working Wimbledon, Rufus has become an expert at controlling the pigeon population in the area. His handler told the Telegraph he “knows all of the pigeons’ favorite spots to hang out.”
His hard work has paid off immensely, at least in terms of his fandom. Rufus the Hawk has more than 10,000 followers on Twitter.
In addition to updates on player’s wins and losses, the account regularly features photos of Rufus and news about the bird.
While some of his fans show their love on social media, others bring it to the matches. Fellow Wimbledon celebrity Chris Fava — known to many as the Strawberry Man — was recently spotted courtside dressed as the beloved bird.
“I knew I had a lot of points to defend from last year because Strawberry Man was such a big hit that I wanted to do something that was iconic and Rufus is probably an icon already,” he told Wimbledon.com on Monday.
“I knew I wanted it to be Wimbledon-centric. I took about two months to do the costume…Everyone’s reaction when I’m here is really cool,” Fava continued.
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