Roger Federer won his seventh Wimbledon title today in an exciting tennis match against Andy Murray. While Federer was the star on the court, an unsung hero off the court helped keep distractions at a minimum: a Harris Hawk named Rufus.
Rufus was thrust into the spotlight last weekend after it was reported he was bird-napped from a vehicle. Fortunately, the bird was found safely not long after he went missing, and his handlers Wayne Davis and his daughter, Imogen, were ecstatic.
The hawk Rufus is employed by The Championships at the All England Club where his official title is “bird chaster.” And he does just that.
Rufus flies overhead and patrols the sky in an effort to scare away curious and overconfident pigeons from the matches at Wimbledon. Apparently, pigeons find the Centre Court where the Wimbledon is held particularly appealing, but once the hawk flies around for a little while, the pigeons are immediately frightened and leave the vicinity.
Here’s a great excerpt from a piece about Rufus at Boston.com:
According to Wayne Davis, the All England Club first employed his birds’ services a dozen years ago when pigeons strutted around like they owned the joint.
“It wasn’t uncommon,’’ noted Wayne Davis, “to see pigeons on the courts during games — players would have to shoo them off the baseline.’’
Not with Rufus, credentialed “Bird Chaser’’ on the job. And before Rufus, the Davises had their faithful Hamish, another Harris hawk, chasing those dirty, non-dues-paying poachers off the premises. These days, Rufus makes his flyovers from 5:30 to about 9:30 a.m., then returns pre-dusk for another keen-eyed sweep, provided the day’s matches have been completed. Some pigeons remain, but most of them suffer badly from repetitive stress syndrome, the toll from constantly looking over their shoulder to see if Rufus has them in his crosshairs.
This is actually a great way to discourage unwanted birds from taking over places you don’t want them to. It’s a better option than poisoning the pigeons, shooting them or putting up expensive devices to shoo them away.
Falconry—or scaring away unwanted birds with predators—is an effective and efficient way to stave off throngs of pigeons.
So, while Federer battled Murray for the title, remember that they were able to do so thanks to a hawk scaring away unwanted birds.