LONDON — Big cities have one big problem that smaller towns don’t generally worry about — pigeons. And when a city hosts outdoor sporting events, there’s arguably no better place for a pigeon to be if it wants to be fat and happy.
This is especially true at Wimbledon, where the courts are carefully maintained within the millimeter using perennial ryegrass, which is considered a delicious treat by pigeons far and wide.
But the caretakers use a surprising technique for managing a possible pigeon invasion in the form of a 1 pound 6 ounce Harris hawk named Rufus.
Rufus’ job since 2000 has been to keep the pigeons from roosting in the rafters of the Centre Court, which helps stop pigeons landing on the court or otherwise causing problems during the tournament.
"The way we work with Rufus is that he sees us as part of his family and part of his group," 27-year-old falconer Imogen Davis told NPR. "He flies around and shoos any pigeons away and returns to us for his reward, which is usually chicken or quail. He has quite refined taste."
Rufus’ job has understandably brought him much attention, which manifested itself in a bad way when he was briefly kidnapped two years ago. To read more about the kidnapping and to see Rufus as the star of his own commercial, visit NPR.org.