Let the eagle soar: Tom Ricardi releases rehabbed bird of prey

  • This released immature bald eagle hops along the ground as it gains altitude as it is being released in Deerfield on Tuesday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Tom Ricardi tries to coax a rehabilitated immature bald eagle, that was found malnourished below a nest, out of the container in Deerfield on Tuesday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • This immature bald eagle, that was found malnourished below a nest, was nursed back to health by Tom Ricardi, and released in Deerfield on Tuesday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 8/28/2019 6:31:57 PM

DEERFIELD — The Center for Parenting Education states that sibling rivalry is inevitable whenever there is more than one child in a household.

In at least one case in western Massachusetts, however, it led to an American bald eaglet getting severely injured after it was shoved from a nest in late April. Tom Ricardi, of Mass. Birds of Prey Rehab in Conway, got the call to pick up the little creature, who became the latest on a list of countless rescued birds Ricardi has released back into the wild when it was set free in Deerfield on Tuesday.

“When I got the bird, it was literally skin and bones. It couldn’t stand up it was so weak,” he said, adding that the eagle suffered a lot of tissue damage to the rear of its head and its back, and likely hadn’t eaten in a week before he was found. “So the big problem with this bird was getting its weight up.”

With the help of Drs. Robert Schmitt and Karen Burand at the South Deerfield Veterinary Clinic, Ricardi nursed the unnamed bird back to health. By the time he was released, the bird — born this year — weighed roughly 8½ pounds, stood 34 to 36 inches tall and sported a 5½- to 6-foot wingspan.

Shortly after noon, Ricardi lowered the tailgate of his red Dodge Ram truck and opened a carrier to release the bird. The eagle took one hop out of the carrier and onto the grass before flapping his wings and taking off across the field, fairly low to the ground.

“He went in the shade, which is good. He’ll sit there, probably, most of the day and then eventually he’ll go off and find a good perch somewhere,” Ricardi said once the bird disappeared. “He was a tough one, this guy. He was so wild from day one. He was just an uptight bird. But he did good.”

He said it will take four years for the bird to develop the white head synonymous with bald eagles.

Ricardi, 80, said he has lost count of the number of eagles he has rehabilitated, having been practicing his craft since the 1970s. He said he has bred 32 of them in captivity. He mentioned he rescued 135 hawks and owls last year and is up to 115 this year. He said he still gets the same amount of joy and satisfaction from releasing rehabilitated birds as he did when he first started.

“It keeps you going,” he said.

Ricardi said he was leaving the field to head to the Longmeadow Police Department to pick up a red-tailed hawk that needs rehabbing.

Contributions to Ricardi’s efforts can be sent to Mass. Birds of Prey Rehab, P.O. Box 26, Conway, MA 01341.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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