A distressed family’s pet hawk, used to scare off pigeons from Wimbledon’s tennis grounds, has been reunited with its owners after being stolen last week.

Rufus, a four-and-a-half year-old American harrier hawk, was taken while inside his cage overnight between June 28 and 29 from a car parked in Dunstall Road, Raynes Park.

The car was parked on a private drive with the rear window open for ventilation by his owner, who reared Rufus as part of a family-run business, Avian Environmental Consultants.

After the Metropolitan Police launched an appeal for information on Saturday, which included officers handing out leaflets to visitors to the tennis, Rufus was found on Sunday evening.

The bird was discovered in a carrying case on Wimbledon Common by a member of the public and then handed in to the RSPCA in Putney.

His owner, Imogen Davis, was “very distressed” by the theft but, after the reunion with Rufus, told ITN: “We can't believe it. We are just so excited. Rufus says thank you so much."

The bird's Twitter account, written by his owners, said: "We can confirm the news is true RUFUS HAS BEEN FOUND safe and well & reunited with family!! Thank you so much for your support.”

RSPCA inspector Esther Lincoln, who was called to the Common yesterday, said she collected the famous bird and took him to the RSPCA Putney Animal Hospital to be cared for while she tracked down his owners.

She said: “When I had a call to collect a found hawk that had been dumped I had no idea it was Rufus.

"He is very lucky to be back with his owners – he is quite a celebrity.”

Using a hawk to deter pigeons was first introduced at the All England Club in 1999 and Rufus is flown each morning and evening of the championships before and after play.

Anyone who has information about the theft should call Merton police on 020 8649 3118.

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