Friends of the Stabler Family
NAFA Journal 1985, Vol. 24
Robert M. Stabler
— by James Enderson
Dr. Robert M. Stabler died July 16, 1985 of a
heart attack after a brief illness. With his passing,
a major segment of the history of falconry in North
America has come to an end.
He was born in Washington, D.C. of Quaker
parents, and attended Swarthmore College and
Johns Hopkins University, receiving a Sc.D. in
1931. In 1932, he took a teaching position at the
University of Pennsylvania. His lifelong interest
in reptiles was already developed, but in 1934 he
went to Woods Hole Marine Laboratory and met
Richard Bond, who ew peregrines. That summer
Bond and Walter Spofford took Bob to Mt. Tom
where he obtained his rst peregrine. At that time,
Bob also had a kestrel named Miss Lucy who de-
veloped frounce. From then on, Bob carried out
research on Trichomonas gallinae, and was even-
tually instrumental in the development of enheptin
and emtryl for the treatment of the disease. Pigeon
racers and falconers will long be in his debt for
that work.
In May 1935 a University of Pennsylvania stu-
dent named Alva Nye took a tiercel peregrine
from Laceyville on the Susquehanna and gave it
to Bob. He was never without a falcon for the next
50 years. Another Penn freshman in 1935 was
Morgan Berthrong, who had learned falconry with
Frank and John Craighead in the Washington, D.C.
area. Recently Morgan recalled to me how much
falconry Bob had mastered in such a short time.
(When Bob eventually moved to The Colorado
College, it was one of the reasons Morgan, who
became an expert on raptor pathology, later moved
to Colorado Springs).
The foundations of North American falconry
were laid in those years. Luff Meredith, a World
War I yer and then aviation consultant, lived at
Boonton, New Jersey. Bob and Morgan visited him
there, as did Joe Hickey. The Pennsylvania group
grew. Hampton Carson, Jack Heisler, Howard
Curtis, Earl Poole, Jim Fox, Johnny McCowen,
Bob Murphy, and Jim Rice were frequent visitors
to the Stabler home at Wallingford, Pennsylvania,
and later at Glen Mills. In 1938, a meet was held at
Darlington. Tom Rawles was there from Colorado.
Rawles was a major inuence in Hal Webster’s fal
conry interests and urged Bob to move to Colorado
in 1947. In the early 1940s, Steve Gatti, Bill Lasky,
and Larry Zuk came to know Bob Stabler and his
falconry. Morlan Nelson met him soon after the
war, as old photos verify.
In 1936 Bob was given an eyas goshawk named
Miss Bonnie. She died three weeks short of 19
years of age. In the 1950—1965 era, a new group
of young men were his associates in falconry, in-
cluding Vernon Siefert, Richard Esposito, Jerry
Craig, Bob Dandrea, Kent Carnie, Buddy Graver,
Ken Riddle, Dave Remple and Frank Bond.
Bob Stabler wrote forwards for the reprint of
Hartings book on falconry and for Jameson’s book
on Japanese hawking. He was editor of The Amer-
ican Falconer and later vice president of the
Falconry Club of America. He was an honorary
member of the British Falconry Club and the only
North American honorary member of NAFA.
Outside of falconry he was at his best as a par-
asitologist and teacher. His scientic publications
number over 100, and scores of students went on
to graduate school or medical school because of
his inuence. He had a way of encouraging sound
work from his colleagues—usually by example,
sometimes by candid remark. If you made into
your hawk too fast, or gave an exam that was too
difcult, you were soon going to learn of your mis-
take. He once remarked when I was a freshman
professor that both teaching and research are
equally important to a biologist. I aspired to follow
his example, as so many others did.
Bob remained active in falconry, research, and
in serious pursuit of y shing until his last days. It
was no minor undertaking to be his “gilly” and row
the boat to the precise spot where the big rain-
bows waited.
Upon his death I took his tiercel peregrine to
my home for temporary safe-keeping until it could
be returned to The Peregrine Fund. Blocked in
my yard, Luff was exposed to foreign sights and
sounds, enough to rattle any falcon. That evening,
prepared for a frantic bate, I knelt to pick him up.
No bate! He looked up at me and stepped onto
the unfamiliar glove. Of course, I thought, this bird
had been handled and trained by a master.
R.M. Stabler with his wife, Sally, and
her sister Dr. Mary Alice Hamilton
Sally and Mirza, Summer 1938
OCTOBER, 1953 VOL. 1, NO. 1
The Journal of The
Frounce: Its Cause and Cure
Hundreds of years ago falconers were, even as they are today,
plagued by a disease mainly of the mouths and crops of their birds,
which disease was early referred to as “Frounce”. The pigeon fancier,
when it is in his birds, calls it “Canker”. The parasitologist, be-
cause it is caused by the presence of a very small protozoan parasit
known as Trichomonas gallinae, refers to it as “trichomoniais”.
Miss Bonnie
Lady Mary, adult female Peregrine Falcon.
Photo by Stabler, Nov. 1938. Photo appears
in Woods and Fyfe’s De Arte Venandi Cum
Avibus, 1943.
Stabler on Lady Anne, his cowpony with
saddle once owned by Teddy Roosevelt,
December 1949
Joseph Hickey and Robert Stabler
Luff II and “Doc” with rattlesnake
head hatband, 1985
RMS with Miss Bonnie and Lady Mary, Jim
Rice with Lady Lacy Belle, Dan Mannix with
Tara, Sally Stabler with a Cooper’s Hawk be-
longing to Mannix. Picture ca. late 1930s.
Dan Mannix, Sally Stabler, Howart Curtis, Morgan Berthrong, Jim Rice, Hampton Carson,
Mrs. Carson, RM Stabler. Late 1930s.
RMS with Golden Eagle, “Kineo” and
Peregrine, “Mirza”, 1938
RMS and Tommy, male peregrine, Feb. 1936
RMS feeding his female Goshawk, Miss
Bonnie, and his dog, Gypsy, on the lawn of
his home, The Eyrie, Wallingford, PA