Raptor rehabilitator shares birds, stories with seniors

  • Esther Boraski, left, holds a screech owl while Carol Courteney looks on during a presenation about birds of prey given by Tom Ricardi at Christopher Heights of Northampton on Monday July 23, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Tom Ricardi answers a resident's question about the barred owl he is holding during a presentation at Christopher Heights of Northampton on Monday July 23, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Tom Ricardi holds up a falcon during his lecture and demonstration at Christopher Heights of Northampton on Monday July 23, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Tom Ricardi answers a resident's question about the barred owl he is holding during a presentation at Christopher Heights of Northampton on Monday July 23, 2018. of Northampton on Monday July 23, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Sandra Shelton, left, holds a falcon while Dorothy Zucaur looks on during Tom Ricardi's lecture and demontration about birds of prey at Christopher Heights of Northampton on Monday July 23, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Michel Kirouac holds a falcon during Tom Ricardi’s lecture and demonstration on birds of prey at Christopher Heights of Northampton on Monday. GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Tom Ricardi speaks about the young turkey vulture to his left during his lecture about birds of prey at Christopher Heights of Northampton on Monday July, 23, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

  • Raptor rehabilitator Tom Ricardi holds up a peregrine falcon during his lecture and demonstration at Christopher Heights of Northampton on Monday. GAZETTE STAFF/VIVIAN MYRON

For the Gazette
Published: 7/23/2018 9:07:21 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Almost every seat in the room was taken Monday afternoon when raptor rehabilitator Tom Ricardi brought seven of his birds to Christopher Heights of Northampton.

“I’m glad we had such a good turnout,” said Gail Molloy, who has been living at the assisted living facility since it opened in 2016. “We try to fill up the room for these kinds of events, but it doesn’t always happen. This did it, though.”

Ricardi brought the birds out of their wooden crates one by one, walking around the room with them atop his hand. The first three birds Ricardi brought out were owls: an Eastern screech owl, a barred owl, and a Eurasian giant eagle owl.

Garnering the most attention was the eagle owl, which Ricardi has raised from the egg. As he took him out of his wooden crate, the owl poked its beak up against Ricardi’s face, clearly not trying to harm him.

“He loves to play,” Ricardi said. “I’ll tell you this much, you guys haven’t lived until you’ve been kissed by an owl.”

Another bird in the lineup was a peregrine falcon, the fastest creature on Earth according to Ricardi, who said they can travel at speeds up to 200 mph when they are hunting prey. Ricardi also pointed out the black lines under the falcon’s eyes, which act as eye black and reflect the sun “just like Tom Brady with his eye black.”

The last bird Ricardi brought out was a 5-week-old turkey vulture with “a face only a mother could love.” Ricardi was called four weeks ago after someone in South Hadley realized that what they thought was a tennis ball was actually a young vulture that had fallen out of its nest.

While the bird is currently in rehab and is unable to fly, Ricardi is expecting the turkey vulture to be able to fly in two weeks under his care.

Last year, Ricardi took in 135 birds and was able to successfully release 60 percent of them into the wild. Others are kept at his Massachusetts Birds of Prey Rehab Facility in Conway because they are not fit to survive in the wild and are used in demonstrations.

Diane Godek, director of activities at Christopher Heights, said she was pleased the seniors were able to learn about these birds from a “local legend” such as Ricardi.

“It’s really good for the seniors to experience nature,” Godek said. “I’m glad it drew a great crowd.”




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