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July 12, 2021

Birds of a Feather

Here at Blue Q, we think it’s important to find ways to take a closer look at nature. It’s good for all of us, as a company and as a species, to interact with and learn about the world around us. That’s why we decided to have a local wildlife rehabilitator stop by and show us some of his resident raptors.

Tom Ricardi was state game warden for forty years. He always had a passion for birds and so, when he retired, he went full time into rehabilitating injured birds of prey. He does it all on his own, paying for food and expenses out of pocket, or by doing educational speaking gigs like the one he did for us, and accepting small donations. He currently has around sixty birds in his enclosures in Conway MA, most of whom, hopefully, can be released back into the wild. He works with a good veterinarian to assess the injury and state of the animal, and if they have been injured too severely to survive on their own, they become ambassadors to the public, helping humans connect with wildlife.

He explained to us some of their habits: what they eat, where they live, and how each particular individual was injured and why they couldn’t be released. Almost all of their injuries had something to do with humans. A bum wing, or a bad eye, resulting from humans cutting down a tree or collisions with automobiles.

Tom mentions pretty casually that some years, he rescues more than one hundred birds, and has a really high success rate. Also, the little fact that he’s one of the few people to be granted the appropriate permits to work with Bald Eagles. He’s been breeding them since the 70’s, helping with the effort to bring them back from the brink of extinction. I’m pretty sure this is actually a really big deal.

For the most part the birds sat quietly on his gloved hand while he told us about each of them and occasionally gave them an affectionate poke. Tom was cucumber-cool around these birds, as gigantic as some of them were, as fierce and sharp as we could see their beaks and talons were.

He doesn’t give them names because he says that would be doing them a disservice. To bring a wild animal to a school and call it something cutesy like “Hooty the owl” would give everyone the wrong impression. They are not his pets. They are wild animals, and so he calls them exactly what they are: a Great Horned Owl, a Peregrine Falcon, a Golden Eagle. But he clearly has a bond with them, and they with him. The Turkey Vulture in particular seemed fond of him, and was actually grooming his eyebrows as he talked.

After Tom’s visit we all felt a little more knowledgeable about, and a little closer to, these incredible animals that inhabit our skies. They play a vital role in our ecosystem and have plenty to teach us about how we interact with wildlife and the habitat that they depend on.




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