Rufus holds court at Wimbledon

Rufus the hawk at Wimbledon
Rufus the hawk at Wimbledon
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Rufus might not have the tennis skills of Andy Murray but he was almost as big a hit at Wimbledon.

Rufus is a hawk from Brigstock who is used by the All England Tennis Club to keep the courts free from pigeons.

A wet Rufus the hawk at Wimbledon

A wet Rufus the hawk at Wimbledon

His handler is Imogen Davis, of Avian Environmental in Brigstock.

She said: “Rufus is a lovely character, he’s very friendly and is happy to be passed from hand to hand for photos.

“He goes to Wimbledon all year round so it is his playground and he sees it at its busiest and its quietest times.

“This year was very full-on because of Rufus being used in the Stella Artois advert but he took it all in his stride.”

Rufus the hawk overlooking Wimbledon

Rufus the hawk overlooking Wimbledon

Family firm Avian Environmental has been keeping the courts of Wimbledon pigeon-free since 1999.

They also help control birds at the Royal Marsden Hospital and Westminster Abbey as well as Northampton Saints ground.

Imogen said: “We’re getting busier as people are starting to learn that it’s not good to eradicate an entire species.

“Using birds is an environmentally friendly way of controlling pests, it’s nature at its best.

“We have eight birds so we can tailor our services to different purposes.”

Although Rufus and Imogen do their work before play gets under way they did meet Andy Murray.

Imogen said: “He’s so lovely, it was really sad how he went out.”

Demonstration sealed the contract

Avian Environmental got the contract to keep Wimbledon pigeon free after Imogen’s mum gave them a call.

Imogen said: “My mum was watching Henman against Sampras and they had to keep batting the pigeons away from the baseline, which was interrupting the points and not what the players wanted.

“She gave them a call and went along to give a demonstration and we’ve been to 14 or 15 championships since.

“Grass seed is like caviar to pigeons and they’re not fazed by humans so we go along to stop them from roosting because once one starts to roost somewhere you get lots.”