ABC News' Sydney Lupkin reports:
The hawk that patrols the skies over Wimbledon tennis courts to scare away the pigeons that interfere with play has been stolen, UK Metropolitan police told ABCNews.com
Rufus, a 4 ½-year-old Harris hawk, and his cage were stolen out of a car either Thursday night or Friday morning in Wimbledon, according to police spokeswoman Kate Campbell. The car was parked on a private driveway, and a back window was cracked open for air, she said.
In addition to patrolling the skies at Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships, Rufus was a family pet, Campbell said, adding that his owners are "distressed" over the disappearance.
Rufus was contracted to work at Wimbledon - and a few other pest patrol gigs - through Avian Environmental Consultants. Avian's blog even features a photo of Rufus from last year's tournament.
Using birds of prey to ward off pigeons has been a practice at Wimbledon since 1999, according to Avian. Rufus circled before and after the athletes took to the courts to scare the pigeons, but not to attack them. His presence alone kept them away.
The hawk has become a regular character at Wimbledon. He even has his own twitter handle, @RufusTheHawk, which has more than 500 followers and often uses the hashtag #SquawkYouLater.
Today, @RufusTheHawk addressed worried fans.
"Hello lovely Twitterers, no news yet, but we must be hopeful," the tweet reads. "Thank you for your kind and lovely words, they're much appreciated ? # findRufus ."