Metropolitan Police handout
Rufus the Wimbledon hawk, pictured in this Metropolitan Police handout image
The bird of prey that patrols the skies of Wimbledon remained missing Sunday after it was snatched by thieves near 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.
A police spokesman said Rufus was taken from a car parked on a private drive in one the residential areas surrounding the venue, with the rear window open for ventilation.
Rufus is also a family pet, the spokesman said.
Owner Imogen Davis, 25, said: "It's really, really sad. 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."
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 since his disappearance. His last tweet was before Rafael Nadal's shock exit from the tournament.
David said her family 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."
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 realize 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."
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.
ITV News is the UK partner of NBC News.
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