The young red-tailed hawks making their home outside the Franklin Institute have drawn quite a human following, turning yesterday's spectacular rescue of one of them into nothing short of a dramatic reality show - both on the street and via Twitter.

It started in the early morning when a hawk was spotted walking across Winter Street. As word spread that a hawk was hanging around on the ground, onlookers gathered.

The story of the hawk chicks has been unfolding since the first egg was laid in March. Their tale, chronicled in The Inquirer, has attracted thousands of onlookers, some periodically showing up to gaze at the nest and others watching the birds via a webcam installed by the institute.

Two of the hawks took their first flight Wednesday without incident, to the delight of their followers.

The hawk that flew yesterday wasn't as fortunate.

By 9:30 a.m., it was sitting on a railing near the main entrance to the Fels Planetarium as a couple dozen people watched and took pictures.

The hawk seemed to panic and flew onto a ground-floor window ledge, then onto a statue on the other side of the street, said Kay Meng of Glenolden, who was there.

"It was obviously scared to death," said Meng, a Catholic school secretary.

Institute officials, concerned that the hawk was frightened and unable to fly back to its nest, blocked off the sidewalk and called in Rick Schubert, director of the Schuylkill Center's Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic.

The hawk tried to fly again, but became trapped between a railing and a concrete wall.

Schubert raced across the street and, without protective gear, grabbed and cradled the hawk, calming it.

The 30 or so onlookers exploded in applause.

"It was one of the most extraordinary things I've ever seen," said Della Micah, director of college guidance at Germantown Friends School. "He was so concerned about the hawk."

"Usually these stories don't end well," the Plymouth Meeting woman continued. "We weren't sure how she could be rescued safely, but she got trapped just long enough for him to grab her."

Schubert carefully placed the bird in a box and took it to the clinic, in Upper Roxborough, about 1:30 p.m.

The hawk was not injured, but as institute officials suspected, it wasn't really ready to fly, Schubert said.

"We'll continue to monitor it, feed it, and then we'll relocate the animal to a much safer area," he said. "Not inside the city."

The center will keep an eye on the other hawks at the nest, he added.

"Hopefully, they won't be as impatient as this bird," he said, "so they will be able to fly off and be on their own with less trauma than this one suffered."

Contact staff writer Susan Snyder at 215-854-4693 or ssnyder@phillynews.com.