The hawk that patrols Wimbledon to deter pigeons has been stolen, police said.

Detectives are investigating the theft of Harris hawk Rufus, who was stolen along with his cage overnight between Thursday and Friday from a car parked in Wimbledon.

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

The hawk, which deters pigeons at the All England Club 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!"

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."