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Enjoying the tennis? Now meet the real ‘Hawk Eye’


WHILE the world’s greatest players bid for glory on the hallowed tennis courts at Wimbledon, Rufus, the Harris Hawk, has already nailed top seed status. The bird of prey who calls home an aviary at Brigstock, near Kettering, has an international following and once again will be ruling the roost at this year’s All England Championships.

Rufus and handler get ready for a day’s work at Wimbledon.

Rufus has undoubtedly earned his place in the hall of fame at Wimbledon. While champions come and go, this will be the 17th year that Rufus will be patrolling the skies above The Championships, keeping a steely lookout for pigeons and other birds.

Donna Davis (pictured above with Rufus), from the family-run business Avian Environmental Consultants Ltd, is one of the handlers who works with Rufus during The Championships.

She said: “While everyone else is watching the top tennis players I think with Rufus we have our own elite athlete.”

During the championships, the day kicks off at 6am to give Rufus a workout on Centre Court and No 1 Court where he puts his game plan into action. Often it is his simple presence that scares off the opposition as he flies into action across the courts.

Donna who is also joined by Imogen Davis, said: “It is a real honour to be working on Wimbledon’s hallowed grounds. It is a really special place to be and we really love being there with Rufus.”

Rufus, who is also known as ‘The Real Hawk-Eye’, was born in captivity in Northamptonshire. He used to have his own security photocard pass (job title: bird scarer).

He has become one of the fan’s firm favourites with his own X (formerly known as Twitter) and Instagram accounts (@RufusTheHawk and has a growing fan club. When the Duchess of Cornwall visited the All England Club in 2015, Rufus was in the official receiving line and impressed with his handsome dark brown plumage, striking yellow beak and piercing eyes.

A sporting venue is not his natural habit but, at the top of the food chain, he is well placed to deliver the service to flush out ‘vermin’

His long legs and loose-feathered, highly manoeuvrable wings mean he can make the most of his ability to deliver quick bursts of energy and jinking flights from a standing start to make a hit, which is when he prevents the birds from roosting or ground-dwelling without causing harm to the environment so that they can’t disrupt play.

The retractable roofs which from a pigeon’s perspective are five-star luxury lofts are good hunting grounds for Rufus. A radio transmitter means the bird can be tracked via GPS.

“Rufus will come back because we give him food but if he does not come back we just need to be patient and, once he has slept off a meal, he will come back to us,” said Donna.

The family firm has earned an enviable reputation in the world of pest control with a range of high-profile consultants. Wimbledon puts Rufus on a global stage and the team work at other prestigious locations including Westminster and Canary Wharf and other more traditional locations… such as landfill sites.

Rufus is just one of the birds who are part of the pest control company’s aviary. His team mates include peregrine falcons, sparrow hawks and other birds of prey.

“This a real family-run business,” said Donna. “Our aim is to supply bird control services using the most environmentally friendly methods available. Our birds will deter other birds from roosting or ground-dwelling in areas which might harm the environment or disrupt.

“We do not shoot or use poison. Rather, our methods are based on our love of ornithology and natural history.”

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