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Have you seen him? Wimbledon's Rufus the hawk still missing

Rufus the Hawk, on Centre Court as he patrols the grounds to scare away pigeons during day three of Wimbledon 2012. Photo: Stephen Pond/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The bird of prey that patrols the skies of Wimbledon remains missing today after it was snatched by thieves during the first week of the tennis tournament.

Harris Hawk Rufus, who deters pigeons from the All England Club, was stolen along with his cage overnight between Thursday and Friday.

Detectives are investigating the theft and have appealed for help from members of the public to find the missing bird.

Rufus the Hawk has his own security pass on Centre Court. Credit: Stephen Pond/PA Wire/Press Association Images

A police spokesman said Rufus was taken from a car parked on a private drive in Dunstall Road, Wimbledon, with the rear window open for ventilation.

The hawk, which deters pigeons purely by his presence, is also a family pet, he said.

The family has become very attached to the bird who is now four-and-a-half years old.

They are distressed over the theft and are appealing for help to recover the bird.

Rufus has become a well-known fixture at the south-west London club, with visitors often stopping to ask for photos with the hawk.

He even has his own Twitter account, but has not tweeted for a day.

His last tweet was before Rafael Nadal's shock exit from the tournament, when he said: "Murray is through, Rafa is down 2-1 (!), Ward played brilliantly but lost to Mardy Fish, and Italy are beating Germany 1-0!"

Rufus the Hawk on Centre Court with handler Imogen Davies as he patrols the grounds to scare away pigeons during the Championships. Credit: Stephen Pond/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Owner Imogen Davis, 25, said they were still in shock after Rufus' disappearance.

"It's really, really sad," she said. "He was taken in his travelling box, which is where he sleeps because it's nice and dark and cool and he can fall asleep in there.

"We're very, very shocked, we just want to know he's okay."

Keeper Wayne Davis with the Hawk. Credit: John Fahey/PA Wire

She said they have reared four-year-old Rufus as part of the family-run business Avian Environmental Consultants.

"We work as a team together. To have him taken away like that is just horrible," she added."It's a family business, the birds are brought up around us. They're part of the family. It's just the way it is."

Ms Davis said she originally thought it was a prank, but was not sure as a falconry glove and falconry hood were stolen at the same time.

"Initially I was almost hoping that it was a prank because there was more possibility of us getting him back, and somebody would realise it was a stupid thing to do," she added.

"But because the hood and the glove were taken, I'm not sure. I suppose at least it means he's been looked after."

Wimbledon's resident Hawk. Credit: Stephen Pond/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Rufus is a Harris Hawk, an American species. Hawking was first introduced to the All England Club in 1999 as an environmentally-friendly method of pest control.

Pigeons are not the Harris Hawk's natural prey, and they are trained not to attack but to circle and fly around the courts to scare the birds.

Rufus is flown each morning and evening of the championships before and after play, but not during, so as to avoid any distraction.

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