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25.6.11


This is one Hawk-eye that is never wrong.
For pigeons flying around Wimbledon, Rufus, a three-year-old bird of prey, is a feathered fiend. But for fans, organisers and players alike he helps keep the place clean and prevents distractions on court.
Keeper Wayne Davis said: 'He provides more of a deterrent really, and keeps the pigeons away from court and stops them nesting rather than eating them.
'He can do though, he'd eat half a rabbit if he could.'
Rufus is a Harris hawk, a US species, and is a firm fixture around SW19, even having his own pass showing his job title: Bird Scarer.
Mr Davis, 48, and Rufus arrive every day at 5.30am and work for four hours. The hawk flies around the massive footprint of the south-west London tennis capital, keeping more timid birds at bay.
The pair then go to other jobs: keeping pigeons off Westminster Abbey and Hampton Waterworks among others.
Bird's-eye view: Rufus is a Harris Hawk and even has his own pass for Wimbledon which reads: Bird ScarerRufus might terrify other birds but he attracts admiring looks from tennis fans who always ask Mr Davis to stop for a picture.
Mr Davis said: 'He is very popular. People are mesmerised by birds of prey. And in this context, people are often surprised to see Rufus.
'But he's very good. I trained him to be used to people and all the things he would encounter in his work.'
 
Mr Davis, a father of six who has helped protect Wimbledon from pigeons since 1999, said working with Rufus is sometimes tricky. The bird, which is fitted with a radio transmitter, likes a bit of independence and sometimes flies off.
He has sometimes not returned and has stayed the night at Canary Wharf and Northampton, tempted back to domesticity with a rabbit. Recently Rufus fled to a residential garden in Wimbledon.
Mr Davis tracked the bird and had to explain on the householder's doorstep why he wanted to come in and have a look round the garden.
'It can sound a bit dubious: can I come in and look round your garden because I've lost my bird? But they were relieved when they saw him.'

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