Saturday, July 11, 2009

Rick Schubert's presentation at the Franklin Institute

The Franklin Institute is hosting Earth Fair 2009 | One Planet Is All We Get! - this weekend. As part of its exploration of how to live more sustainably on our planet, they invited our very own Rick Schubert - Rescuer Extraordinaire of Miss Piggy - and just as importantly, the chief wildlife rehabilitator at the Schuylkill Wildlife Center.

Rick brought several animals to demonstrate the work of wildlife rehabilitation. Here he is holding Freya, a female red-tailed hawk, who was shot through her left wing and can no longer fly safely enough to be released back into the wild.

The bullet passed through her wing and remains in her body lodged too close to her spine to be removed. You can see how her left wing droops a little.

Kay Meng took all these great pictures

Rick commented that Freya was on the small side for a female red-tail, and she did seem slighter in build than the Franklin eyasses and formel. Freya is used as a surrogate hawk when baby hawks are rescued and need to imprint on a red-tail.

Miss Piggy did not meet Freya during her two day stay at the Center because she was old enough to be on her own. Miss P was kept in a special enclosure that was "blacked-out" so she could not see humans, and Rick told us that because she was a bit underweight, she did nothing but eat while there, completely living up to her name!

Here is Sneakers, a possum who lives permanently at the Wildlife Center. Rick told us that Sneakers was originally kept as a pet and fed only on chicken and cantaloupe - a terrible diet for a possum as it contains no calcium. As a result, Sneakers developed metabolic bone disease (rickets). When Sneakers' owner realized something was seriously wrong, he brought him to the Wildlife Center where he will remain as he is too disabled by the effects of the disease to be returned to the wild.

We learned that possums are the only marsupials to live in the USA, and because they raise their young in the mother's pouch, don't need to build nests, and are therefore nomadic in their lifestyle. Possums are completely non-aggressive and when threatened, literally pass out from stress, originating the term, "playing possum."

Another animal that Rick brought was Smashy, the box turtle. He was run over by a car which crushed his shell, hence his name. His shell is almost completely healed now, with just one small crack remaining to heal over. Conventional wisdom is that turtles eat lettuce and fruit, but in fact they are far more carnivorous than most people realize. Smashy enjoys worms, dog food and mice!

Rick told us that most of the red-tailed hawks that are rescued and come to him for rehabilitation are young eyasses who have not yet fully learned of the dangers of highways, cars, power lines, and other elements of human interference in their natural habitat. He believes that as they mature, they become more savvy to the dangers around them and adapt accordingly.

Red-tailed hawks are at the top of the food chain, and one of the factors that keeps them there is their incredible telescopic eyesight. Its power is such that if a newspaper were pinned to a football goal post, a hawk could read it from the other end of the field! Another interesting fact we learned is that crows predate on hawk eggs and nestlings, and so it is theorized that female hawks are larger than males as they spend more time on the nest and potentially need to defend it and its helpless inhabitants.

So, if you live near Philadelphia and wish you could have heard Rick speak today, you have a second chance tomorrow (Sunday) as he is giving his presentation again at 1:00 pm in the Musser Theater on the 3rd floor.


  1. Della, you are terrific- did you take notes or remember all of that? Shorthand, perhaps? Thanks for all of the info- fascinating- so sorry I won't be able to get there tomorrow, but hopefully I will get to meet Rick as well as you and Kay and Carolyn sometime in the future at the wildlife center or in the "tree alley."


  2. I did take some notes as I knew I wouldn't remember so many interesting facts. Come out hawk watching one morning - I can let you know when we'll be there -- I know you can't do tomorrow. Hope the golf goes well!

  3. Della, What a treat. I should have known you would bring Rick's
    presentation to all of us. What was I thinking yesterday when I went
    begging for old school stuff? Will be down for Rick's presentation
    Sunday. Plan on going to the Art Museum/2601 Parkway area afterwards
    as mmggolfer reported Friday is a good site to see the hawks. If you
    you early birds don't see any action around the construction site, consider
    moving in that direction. The eyasses are moving west to establish their own territory now separate from their haggard parents. John
    Blakeman estimated August for that regularity in redtails. But we
    have the best and the brightest, SAT scores off the charts.

  4. Hi Della- yes, let me know when you are going next and I will see if I am free. would love to meet you guys before our hawkadees leave the area- who was the first to call them hawkadees so many weeks ago? I love it- so much more fun than eyass! Tell Kay, great new pictures- I posted a comment on her web site re the "cute" one- love them all- any idea if that is Portico?


  5. Peg, did you have any hawk sightings in the art museum area? I walked up and down the parkway Friday after I left you and didn't see any, but my friend told me they are flying back and forth between 2601 and 2200 checking out sites for a new home!


  6. After Rick Schubert's presentation Sunday in FI, I drove over to 2601,
    parked in the lot, and wandered about looking up into the trees, up
    towards your friend's balcony and over towards PMA. Struck up some conversations with the locals who assured me they have seen up to 5
    hawks flying around as your friend has observed. She is in a great place
    to keep us up to date on the family. Great to meet you mm. See you
    again. Peg

  7. Thanks Peg- there are lots of nice people in town- people actually talk to each other when they have something in common! Thanks for letting me know- I'll tell her she is now part of our hawkaholic family.