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 non-lethal method of bird control, with perhaps the most significant location being the Wimbledon Tennis Championships! I look forward to answering any questions you may have! I have twitter, and you can follow me on @RufusTheHawk (www.twitter.com/rufusthehawk ) www.facebook.com/rufusthehawk

My Proof: https://twitter.com/RufusTheHawk/status/481117377078525952/photo/1

I'm really sorry to have to leave with so many unanswered questions, but that will have to be all for today as although Rufus has been fed and is relaxing for the evening, I have to prepare for tomorrow's early start!

Thank you all so much, you can keep up to date with Rufus via www.facebook.com/RufusTheHawk & www.twitter.com/rufusthehawk

Squawk You Later!

Comments: 1215 • Responses: 45  • Date: 

The_Unarmed_Doctor1855 karma

Hi, I wanted to know how old is Rufus? And what is the average life-span of a Hawk?

Also I made a wallpaper of Rufus with his own quote. Hope u like it!

Rufusthehawk968 karma

THANK YOU SO MUCH! That is absolutely wonderful!

coogfan868 karma

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?

Rufusthehawk1102 karma

That is exactly right... Rufus is a non-lethal deterrent which is based on the fact that pigeons have an innate sense of fight of flight, and they don't hang around very long to fight when they see his talons! Thanks for your question :)

Bayren561 karma

On a scale of 1-10 how capable is Rufus of flying past the court and grabbing the tennis ball as it's tossed?

Rufusthehawk897 karma

A pigeon shaped tennis ball?

Miss_Interociter463 karma

Hi, I have two questions:

1) What purpose does the hood and jesses serve? and

2) Was it hard to train Rufus not to hunt and kill smaller birds i.e. pigeons?

Rufusthehawk735 karma

My hood, which is a dutch-style design, made from three pieces of leather, which is actually a Wimbledon themed special hood only used at the All England Club! The purpose of a hood is to ensure a bird is kept calm and restful, and it is important they are acclimatised to this during the manning process. The purpose of the jesses (flying and Aylmeri) are to keep a hold of your bird, by attaching a swivel and then leash, which are used to tether them down when not flying.

One of the most important parts of my job are to know Rufus' optimum flying weight, which is 1lb6oz. 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 :)

Thank you for your questions!

gdyetrauda344 karma

How did you get into falconry? Do you feel the guided falcon tours/walks people do are a good representation of what you do?

This is an amazing hobby/vocation and I'm always fascinated by it.

Rufusthehawk423 karma

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! :)

kidkolumbo317 karma

Do you get perks for being the owner of Rufus? Free tickets to Wimbledon whenever you're not working?

Rufusthehawk480 karma

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!

euler2718251 karma

Would you rather fight, with Rufus' help, a horse-sized pigeon or 100 pigeon-sized horses?

Rufusthehawk255 karma

Tricky question!! I am sure 100 pigeon sized horses would definitely get under my feet...

Thanks for your question!

minimalade207 karma

Besides Wimbeldon, what other kinds of places does Rufus work?

Are there any difficulties that Rufus faces in his line of work?

Sorry to hear that Rufus was kidnapped, too. Is that a common thing?

Rufusthehawk319 karma

We also work at Westminster Abbey, the Royal Marsden Hospital, the Northampton Saints Rugby Ground and various other locations! There has been an instance where a wild peregrine has warned Rufus to keep out of his way, which can be quite frightening! Luckily it is not a common occurence, and will never been happening to us again!

Thank you for taking the time to ask your questions :)

Ephixia125 karma

Rufus was kidnapped? By who and was he returned?

Rufusthehawk215 karma

We never found out, but we are just very grateful that he was returned to us relatively unscathed.

Thanks for your question!

AngryTarpon161 karma

I'm unfamiliar with harris hawks, the predominant bird of prey in my area being red tailed hawks- What kind of flight path does he have when hunting? Is it a long loitering glide followed by steep attack dives, or is he more of a stationary percher until a target is in range?

Rufusthehawk220 karma

Rufus is an opportunist, and in the wild, Harris' hunt in family groups, so they tend to use a mixture of both, with some flying ahead to flush out the prey, and others waiting to capture it. thank you for taking time to ask a question :)

Count3D149 karma

What does his diet consist of? Do you feed Rufus or does he just go out and hunt whatever/whenever he feels like?

Rufusthehawk198 karma

Mainly quail and chicken. We fly Rufus on a daily basis and keep him as closely as he would be in the wild, other than having to hunt for his own food. Thank you for your question! :)

SutfamG127 karma

Does Rufus have a rivalry with any of the other birds?

Rufusthehawk177 karma

Corvids make their presence quite clear - a murderous pack when they fly over - many birds will let him know he is not welcome by displaying territorial behaviour. Thanks for your question!

EISeptember125 karma

Does Rufus fly during the games?

Have you and Rufus been used during any of the Wimbledon finals?

What is the best story you have of your time with Rufus and Wimbledon?

What stops a hawk from just flying away, how are they trained to come back?

Rufusthehawk230 karma

During the Championships we fly from around 5am to 9am, just to ensure there are no pigeons who may interrupt play... we work at Wimbledon throughout the year to ensure that the pigeons don't have a chance to roost in the wonderful surroundings of Wimbledon!

I think having the pleasure of seeing Rufus excel each and every day in such beautiful surroundings is so wonderful. Everybody at the All England Club is absolutely brilliant, it feels like one big family which is great to be a part of! We were lucky enough to be able to witness Andy Murray win last year, which was absolutely tremendous!

The reason Rufus returns is down to the manning and training process and building up a relationship with your bird, but most of all it is food motivated.

Thanks for your questions! :)

preposterousposter122 karma

What was the process of trying to convince Wimbledon to hire on a hawk as a pigeon deterrent? I can imagine that being an interesting conversation.

Rufusthehawk202 karma

It was based upon pigeons interrupting tennis matches, so it was actually a lot easier than you would expect! We then demonstrated how it works, and have been there ever since! Thanks for your question!

Ephixia93 karma

Is Rufus the only hawk you have or do you have a backup one in case he gets sick or something?

Rufusthehawk110 karma

We have a range of birds that we use on a daily basis, dependent on the problem species and location. Thank you for your question!

DanielTaylor90 karma

How friendly is Rufus towards human strangers? Has he ever accidentaly met any on his routine patrol?

Rufusthehawk127 karma

Rufus is very friendly, and always like to meet new people! We are often lucky enough to meet a lot of lovely people doing our job! :)

Thanks for your question!

Ephixia89 karma

When you have Rufus flying from 5am-9am like you said how does that work exactly? Do you just take of his hood and he knows to fly around but not go to far or is there some sort of trained flight path that he takes? Also are you required to follow him around as he is "securing" the Wimbledon perimeter?

Rufusthehawk142 karma

Rufus has been trained at Wimbledon from 16 weeks of age (he is now 6 years old), and he knows exactly where his favourite spots are, but also where the pigeons like to hide, so every day he does whatever takes his fancy, but is never predictable! He likes to stay quite localised to me, as he knows I am his easiest food source, so although he can pop out of sight on occasion, he is generally back rapidly to check he will be fed! Thank you for your question!

Iforonewillnot81 karma

I used to volunteer at the Ramsey Raptor Foundation in Cambridgeshire; Harris Hawks were my absolute favorites! They are so smart and fun to work with, especially compared to other birds. Are Harris Hawks your "dream birds" or is there something else out there you'd love to try flying?

Rufusthehawk70 karma

Wonderful! That's not too far away from us! They really are such beautiful birds, and I know how lucky I am to work with them as well as our others on a daily basis! thanks for your question!

Viking-56 karma

Can you give some examples of places other than tennis courts where you and Rufus help out as well. I imagine airports being one of them?

Also, how many birds do you reckon Rufus has dealt with over the years?

Rufusthehawk75 karma

Westminster Abbey, Hospitals, Airfields, Stadiums, Landfill sites, and many more! Rufus is a non-lethal method of bird control. Thanks for your question!

WaitWhereAreMyPants55 karma

Does Rufus get paid? If so, what does he get paid with?

Rufusthehawk105 karma

Quail and chicken!

Thanks for your question!

I_am_Bruton_Gaster55 karma

What is the training like for Rufus? I imagine it would be hard to release a bird and train it to return, especially if it's flying for a few hours at a time. How do you train him not to fly out of a certain area?

Rufusthehawk102 karma

Training a hawk is an intensive and dedicated process, but also incredibly rewarding, and is built on trust with your bird. Ultimately for the bird it is food motivated, but does rely on ensuring enough time is invested with your birds on a daily basis! Rufus is a Harris Hawk and they are known for hunting in the wild as a group, so he works with me and is rewarded for doing the great job that he does! Thanks for your question!

gadzooks152 karma

What happens to the pigeons?

Rufusthehawk123 karma

They simply relocate to an alternative roosting ground when they realise Wimbledon isn't the safest place for them!

Thanks for your question

fergalaun41 karma

Why a Harris Hawk for this type of work?

Rufusthehawk76 karma

Harris Hawks are designed for weaving between woodland and shrubs, and are very stealthy in flight. This design lends itself perfectly for weaving in and out of the courts and the girders up in the roof! Thanks for your question!

irishfather38 karma

How long have you had Rufus and what is the training program like?

Rufusthehawk57 karma

Rufus is 6 years old, and we got him at 16 weeks old, so he is most certainly part of the family! Training and manning is an intensive and dedicated process, but most certainly very rewarding! Thanks for your question!

Eriochroming37 karma

How did Wimbledon contact you about Rufus?

Rufusthehawk74 karma

We approached Wimbledon after seeing problem pigeons interrupting tennis matches, then demonstrated how it works and have been there ever since! Thanks for your question!

Dougmartin2236 karma

Has the hawk ever killed a pigeon while a game is going on and it's televised?

Rufusthehawk48 karma

No! Thanks for your question!

GreyingMantis33 karma

You answered a question below about why Rufus doesn't fly away and the answer you gave was the relationship between you and Rufus as his handler and the role food plays in training. For years and years my college has had an eagle that flies around the stadium before games (no not Auburn) and a couple years ago, after never once straying from its trained path the eagle completely bailed halfway through the circle and ended getting it back like a hour later over by where people were tailgating. I'm curious with your knowledge and experience with bird training if you'd have any idea why such a well trained and intelligent bird would do that? Maybe the tailgating food or something? Thanks for doing this, you're job seems very interesting and fulfilling

Rufusthehawk107 karma

Thank you for taking the time to ask a question! As I have mentioned, the birds do have a mind of their own, and although the Eagle at your stadium had never strayed before,(that is great to hear!) sometimes something can catch their eye and they will simply investigate further! Rufus often decides to pop over to the golf course next to Wimbledon as they have a pond and he fancies a cooling bath! You have to remember they are wild animals and that's why every day is different :) Hope this helps, it is lovely to speak to you! Thank you :)

Joshfast31 karma

Did you name your hawk after my favorite character from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure?

Rufusthehawk64 karma

I have never seen this, sorry! It was actually after a king, who was red-haired and strong!

Thanks for your question!

litlrich27 karma

Do you have any more videos of Rufus working, online? or pictures

Rufusthehawk40 karma

I try and update his twitter (@RufusTheHawk) and facebook - www.facebook.com/RufusTheHawk as much as possible, and will keep trying to post more! Thanks for your interest :)

boringolme27 karma

  1. How did you get involved in falconry?
  2. How did you and Rufus meet / bond?
  3. Was Rufus reared in captivity? Or was he caught and then trained?

Thank you for doing this AMA! We appreciate the lack of pigeons at Wimbledon!

Rufusthehawk41 karma

Thank you very much :)!!

I was lucky enough to be born into falconry, and Rufus was chosen from a great family, and he has become a part of our family from day 1! He was reared in captivity, and then joined us at 16 weeks old! Training begins immediately, and is very intensive, but so very worthwhile!

Thank you for taking the time to ask your questions!

MuggleWizard26 karma

The advertisement was brilliant. In my opinion, it really caught the beauty of such a magnificent creature. Are there more videos of Rufus "in action"?

Rufusthehawk31 karma

Thank you so much, I am so glad you enjoyed it too, we are all very proud :)

I try and upload as many shots/videos of Rufus as possible on www.twitter.com/RufusTheHawk and www.facebook.com/RufusTheHawk

Thank you for taking the time to ask your question :)

totosmaster25 karma

Thank you for sharing your time with us. I think your hawk is amazing.

Are you also a tennis fan, and if so, do you get perks to attend Wimbledon matches or meet players?

Rufusthehawk38 karma

Thanks so much for having us! I love tennis, and I am lucky enough on the odd occasion to catch some tennis on Murray Mound, and met Andy Murray just two days ago! I try and post as many pictures of Rufus at work during the championships on his twitter - @RufusTheHawk

Thanks for your question!

TheTVDB25 karma

In the US, falconers are required by law to go through an extensive apprenticeship program before they get their license. What did your falconry training involve in the UK?

Rufusthehawk47 karma

The UK doesn't have an extensive apprenticeship program like the US, although I do think it would be beneficial to introduce such a scheme here!

Rufusthehawk45 karma

Thank you for your question!

DeNi3DxFATE25 karma

Any back story to the name Rufus?

Rufusthehawk49 karma

It was after a King Rufus, who was red-haired and strong! Thanks for your question!

inakzeptabel24 karma

Why is Rufus wearing the weird black and green mask in this video? What is it for?

Rufusthehawk37 karma

That is my hood, which is a dutch-style design, made from three pieces of leather, which is actually a Wimbledon themed special hood only used at the All England Club! The purpose of a hood is to ensure a bird is kept calm and restful, and it is important they are acclimatised to this during the manning process. Thank you for your question!

PLZremember23 karma

Has Rufus ever brought any critters back to you? I have multiple parrots, and if they see something tasty, there isn't much that can stand between them if they really want to get to it. I know it's non lethal, but I figure there has to have been one time when he broke the rule?

Rufusthehawk56 karma

I have to ensure that Rufus flies at his optimum flying weight of 1lb 6 oz to ensure that he does not get tempted by catching his own prey. The easiest option for Rufus is simply to return to me and then be rewarded with food!

Thanks for your question!

groovyJABRONI20 karma

1 pound 6 ounces (damnit) huh? I'm soooo jealous of that figure.

How did you get involved in becoming the falconer for Wimbledon?

Rufusthehawk21 karma

I was born into it! I consider myself very lucky for that :)

Thank you for your question!

iBleeedorange20 karma

Any specific funny moments/stories that you can share about Rufus?

Rufusthehawk36 karma

Rufus always likes to keep me on my toes, and can often be found hiding over by the pond having a bath at the nearby golf course! Thank you for your question!

jpierreob18 karma

-Do you know if there's any interested in other sporting events that use this method for bird control? I could see working here -Also, what are some of the variety of places Rufus has work? Curious on how common is this. Thanks in advance for the AMA and have fun at Wimbledon :) !

Rufusthehawk19 karma

Thank you for taking the time to ask your question :)

We are lucky enough to work at Westminster Abbey, the Northampton Saints Rugby Ground, Landfill sites, warehouses, the list is endless! We generally use different birds for different problem species and location.

This method bird control is used widely throughout the world, from sports stadiums to hospitals, landfill sites and airfields - probably a lot more locally to you than you realise!

Zabuzaxsta15 karma

If Rufus were hungry and motivated enough, would he potentially go for a pigeon? Or is it just that pigeons think he looks scary and decide to exclude him?

Rufusthehawk29 karma

Potentially, yes, which is why he is an effective deterrent, but that is why my role of monitoring his weight is so important! Thank you for your question!

hurderpderp11 karma

How did Stella Artois approach you for the commercial? What did you think?

Rufusthehawk20 karma

We are very lucky and think the results are absolutely breathtaking :) Thank you for your question!

unnecessary_bitch11 karma

Do you have any videos or pictures of Rufus catching pigeons? Stella's video of him was beautiful, but let's see him in action!

Rufusthehawk31 karma

Rufus is a non-lethal deterrent, the pigeons don't hang around long enough to end up as his dinner!

Thanks for your question!

tessellation_rider1 karma

How do you weigh Rufus? Is there a special scale he hops on and off? Also, how did you train to become a handler? And what made you decide to go that route?

Rufusthehawk2 karma

yes, they are custom designed, but very basic! I was born into it, which I consider very lucky! Thank you for your question!