Steve Chitty, Michael and Karen Yates
In Memory of James Nelson Rice
— by Al Nye
This past September 7,1989, American fal-
conry lost one of its pioneer founders when
my close and oldest falconry friend, James
Nelson Rice—Jim Rice as he affectionately was
known—passed away at the age of 76 years.
To say that he was an ardent falconer would
be an understatement. He practiced the sport
with a devotion equaled only by his love for the
peregrine falcon. I doubt that Jim was ever with-
out a peregrine since taing his rst one from a
Susquehanna River cliff in 1937. I recall the rst
time we met. It was a wintry evening in February,
1935 in Philadelphia. The occasion was a meet-
ing of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club at
the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences
where I had just given a talk on American fal-
conry. Black Mistress, an eyas anatum peregrine,
was on the st as a handsome guy came up,
introduced himself, and said he was eager to
get started in falconry. From the look in his eyes,
Jim Rice was in love with peregrines from then
on. Then and there began our friendship that
spanned over half a century. Even though in later
years we lived in cities miles apart, there was
never a month that went by that we were not in
touch with one another. This continued right up to
the time of his passing.
Jim Rice was rst and foremost a gentleman.
He was kind, considerate, and soft-spoken.
His friendliness and enthusiasm were bound-
less. Brian McDonald, who spent many trapping
seasons with Jim on the beach at Assateague
Island, summed it up beautifully when he wrote
recently, “Jim was always the social creature— I
can’t begin to convey the graciousness, kindness
and friendly spirit he radiated For all the years we
trapped the same beach together, either in the
same vehicle or separate, Jim was the one per-
son who I was personally most glad to see.”
Jim was a pioneer of American falconry. With
Doc Stabler and myself, he was a founding
member of the Peregrine Club of Philadelphia
in the thirties. As a lifelong resident of that area,
he was the hub around which many present day
Pennsylvania falconers evolved. Bob Berry re-
fers to him as “my mentor”. Countless falconers
learned the sport from Jim.
As a conservationist, Jim was always in the
forefront in defense of the birds of prey. In the
early days, he took an active role in campaign-
ing against the hawk shooting that was going on
at Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania. He also was
among the rst to urge that all haggard falcons
trapped on the beach in the fall be banded and
released. Jim’s normal year with wild peregrines
began with the spring check-out and banding vis-
its to all the peregrine eyries in Pennsylvania, fol-
lowed by many trapping and banding expeditions
to Assateague Island in the fall.
Jim’s affection for the peregrine was such that he
had no time for ying other raptors. He was par-
ticularly interested in the bird’s welfare in the wild
also. From 1939 to 1960, he monitored the plight
of the eastern anatum peregrine, and banded
more anatum and tundra peregrines during that
period than any other man. His data and records
were a major contribution to the J.J. Hickey’s
Peregrine Conference Meeting in 1969.
Aside from his falconry, Jim was a most versatile
sportsman and naturalist. He loved fall upland
game bird shooting over English setters that he
had bred and trained. He was a knowledgeable
ornithologist and birder. He was also a gardener
of note, taking great pride in the produce from his
garden each year. But one of his most unusual
interests was the summertime hobby of breed-
ing large moths in captivity and then releasing
their offspring to the wild. Cecropia, Luna, and
Regalis were his favorites. He would tie captive
females out on trees in the evenings to breed
with wild males. Then he would put the females
back in cages to lay eggs, and ultimately produce
young. When the latter became adults, he would
release them to the wild. Jim, as a Quaker, was a
believer in the Bible and the existence of a realm
beyond the current one. He shared that belief,
and often talked about it. So with that assurance,
I am comforted with the thought that Jim is again
with his beloved Ruth Rice, his life’s partner of
forty-nine years. And if perchance there are per-
egrines in heaven, then it is a sure bet that Jim
will be out ying one at dawn each day.
Several years ago, The Peregrine Fund, with
the blessing of NAFA, created the Archives of
American Falconry at the World Center for Birds
of Prey in Boise, Idaho, where the history and
records of American falconry could be stored
and maintained. To house all of the Archives
documents and records that have poured in, the
World Center plans to include a special room in
a new wing now under construction, and most
appropriately plans to dedicate this wing to the
memory of Jim. It will be known as the James
N. Rice Wing. I think it would be a great tribute
to Jim if all falconers contributed to this splendid
— NAFA Journal, 1990
Jim and Ruth Rice 1937
Ruth Rice (1913-1987)
Jim with Coopers Hawk, late 1930s.
Photo by R.M. Stabler
Philco Television. Studio scene during Telecast
over Station WPTZ in Philadelphia
Jim with noosed passage peregrine on As-
sateague, Oct. 1973. Photo by Bob Berry
Jim with a Haggard female on Assateague.
Photo by Bob Berry
Jim cleaning beak of his last peregrine. Summer
1980. Jim ew his birds all year long. Photo by
Patricia Sanbourn
Jim and Al Nye, banding, 1938
Jim and Al Nye attended the rst
national falconry meet at Media, PA 1938.
This photo taken at 50th anniversary.
Jim with Pete Clark, trapping on Assateague Island. 1959. Photo by Ruth Rice
The Rice camp on one of the last years trapping was legal on
Assateague Island.
Jim with passage and intermewed female
Peregrines and his beloved dogs, “Lady” and
“Scufes” (and one unknown) - 1951.
Photo by Ruth Rice.
Dr. Stabler with Miss Bonnie and Lady Mary, Jim
Rice with Lady Lacy Belle, Dan Mannix with Tara,
Mrs. Stabler with a Coopers Hawk belonging to
Mannix. ca. late 1930s.
Jim and Lou Woyce, beach trapping