There are many great sports rivalries that play out on the grounds of Wimbledon each year: Nadal and Federer, Agassi and Sampras, hawks and pigeons.
That's right, as the Wimbledon Championship tennis tournament gets underway today in England, a specially trained hawk is brought in to try to keep the pigeons out.
The hawk known as Rufus and his handler, Imogen Davis, have captivated Wimbledon's attention this year with a Stella Artois commercial about the work Rufus does.
Davis took to Reddit Monday night to answer questions about Rufus, whom she has trained since he was 16 weeks old to fly around the Wimbledon complex in the early-morning hours to scare away pigeons that might try to roost on the grounds. Here are some highlights from the Reddit’s AMA, or Ask Me Anything.
"Hello everybody, I am Imogen, the handler of Rufus the Harris Hawk and I work in a variety of places as an environmentally friendly and nonlethal method of bird control, with perhaps the most significant location being the Wimbledon Tennis Championships!" she wrote.
Question: So what exactly does the hawk do? Do other birds fear it and stay away, or does he do a sort of catch-and-release program?
Davis: That is exactly right. Rufus is a nonlethal 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! Thanks for your question :)
Question: Do you get perks for being the owner of Rufus? Free tickets to Wimbledon whenever you're not working?
Davis: I get to see Rufus fly in the most wonderful surroundings on a daily basis :) Also, my pass allows me in the grounds, so I try and catch some tennis from Murray Mound whenever I'm lucky enough to have a few spare moments! Thanks for your question!
Question: How did you get into falconry? Do you feel the guided falcon tours/walks people do are a good representation of what you do?
Davis: I was lucky enough to be born into a “falconry family,” and enjoy every single day. I think that the opportunity to get close-up to such incredible birds is one that everybody should embrace! Essentially, they are wild animals so will do whatever they wish, no matter how well trained they may be, and that is why every day is completely different! Thank you for taking the time to ask a question, if you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to ask! :)
Question: Was it hard to train Rufus not to hunt and kill smaller birds, i.e. pigeons?
Davis: One of the most important parts of my job are to know Rufus' optimum flying weight, which is 1lb 6oz. By flying Rufus as close to this weight as possible I know that he will not be so hungry he will find his own food. Hope this answers everything :)