The Wimbledon tennis championships started today, and if you pay close attention, you might notice an unexpected employee keeping the riff-raff of the courts: a hawk named Rufus.
Every morning, from 5-9am, Rufus patrols the skies above Wimbledon and scares away any pigeons. And he's been at it for fourteen years.
Lucky for the pigeons, its a humane process. They're not killed, only scared away. At Nerdist, Kyle Hill explains:
Raptors like Rufus—large predatory birds that include eagles, hawks, and falcons—are nothing to mess with. Whether it is scaring pigeons or throwing goats from cliffs, raptors have the speed, vision, and strength to contend with all but the largest game (look at this eagle's claw for goodness' sake). All raptors also have ratchet tendons, which allow the birds to effectively lock their claws shut and maintain enormous grip pressures with bone notches and interlocking tendons.
None of that is good news for the pigeons that Rufus keeps out of Wimbledon, but Rufus isn't a killer. According to a recent Reddit AMA with Rufus' handler, "Rufus is a non-lethal deterrent which is based on the fact that pigeons have an innate sense of fight or flight, and they don't hang around very long to fight when they see his talons!"
And Stella Artois featured Rufus in a nice commercial:
Rufus isn't the first animal to be employed to keep out other unwanted animals from sporting events. In 2010, India hosted the Commonwealth Games and they employed a troop of Langur monkeys to scare off smaller monkeys.
Header image via @RufusTheHawk