Who would have guessed a far-ranging young Great Black Hawk would still be a topic of discussion two years after the remarkable Latin American raptor arrived in Texas, and eventually made its way to Maine? Gone now, but not forgotten, this ultra-rare bird north of the border is now immortalized as an impressive new statue in the Portland city park where birders from across the nation and Canada came to view it and root for its survival as winter approached in 2018-19.
Unfortunately, the rare and popular hawk did not survive the Maine winter, but the interest generated on a local and continental scale is now remembered through a life-sized bronze statue, recently unveiled in Deering Oaks Park in the city of Portland, Maine.
Great Black Hawks normally range from northern Argentina to northern Mexico, but none had ever been seen north of the US-Mexico border. But in April 2018 a first-year Great Black Hawk was photographed on South Padre Island, Texas, the first time the species had been documented in America! Based on a comparison of markings on the plumage of this bird, especially markings on the underwing covert feathers, the same bird was photographed August 9th in Biddeford, Maine – far from south Texas.
Crossing the continental United States was a fete almost more remarkable than the fact that it crossed the Mexican border in April. The rare hawk was not seen again until October 29, but still in Maine, in the city of Portland. It kept out of sight again until November 29, when it was observed and appreciated by many people in Deering Oaks Park. It remained in Deering Oaks, preying on squirrels even as it snowed, and the celebrity young hawk was monitored by many birders and interested Portland residents until January 2019 when it expired – a loss felt across the continent.
The latest local news report about the unveiling of the new statue can be found at https://wgme.com/amp/news/local/portland-unveils-statue-of-great-black-hawk-that-showed-up-in-deering-oaks-park
This rare hawk’s story was chronicled in several issues of The Birding Wire, where you can review each week’s rare bird sightings in the weekly article: The ABA Rare Bird Alert’s Weekly Report. Incidentally, this week we report another First American Record, sighted just north of the Rio Grande in Texas, where a very astute birder recognized a Blue-and-White Swallow near Progresso, Texas! You can check out the variety of state and provincial record rare birds, along with many other interesting off-course and rare birds as reported by the American Birding Association in our weekly article.