𝘕𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳 19, 2021
One of the news feeds from my weather app this morning concerned a hawk that had wandered outside of its normal range. While the bird is generally found in Central and South America, it can be found as far north as northern Mexico. The article said this spring a single bird had been sighted in Texas and that over the last two weeks the rare hawk sighting has been verified in two different locations around Portland, Maine. While the hawk usually feeds on small reptiles, it was seen eating a squirrel. The local ornithologist cautioned birders and the curious to avoid getting too close and disturbing the bird. That means staying back at least 200 feet. Good luck with that.
When I looked online, I found the Common Black Hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus) is a bird of prey in the family Accipitridae, which includes the eagles, hawks, and Old-World vultures. The adult common black hawk is 17–21 inches (43–53 cm) long and weighs 33 ounces (930 grams) on average. It has very broad wings and is mainly black or dark gray. The short tail is black with a single broad white band and a white tip. The bill is black and the legs and cere are yellow. The adults resemble zone-tailed hawks but have fewer white bars on their tail and are larger in size. Sexes are similar, but immature birds are dark brown above with spotting and streaks. Their underparts are buff to whitish with dark blotches, and the tail has several black and white bars. The article noted this was an immature bird, which probably also accounted for the hawk straying far from its normal range.
I am not sure why, but most of the news feeds automatically sent to my phone by my weather app early in the morning are old news. When I open the app, I generally cannot find the story I just read, and the news on the app itself is up to date. That was again the case today. After reading the story about the rare black hawk sighting, the articles I found online were all dated from 2018-2019, or two years ago. I had initially fleetingly considered going to my sister’s house outside of Portland, Maine, to see the bird. I am glad I did not. Two years later, the hawk is no longer there.
𝗧𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀: When I continued to follow the story concerning Maine’s black hawk, I learned it had been taken to a rehabilitation facility after being found on the ground in Deering Oaks Park during a January 2019 cold snap and snowstorm. Avian Haven confirmed the bird had frostbite. The long, bare legs are ideal for chasing prey but are not made to protect the bird from the cold. Temperatures in Portland had dipped to the low single digits, and even lower with the wind chill. A final story was posted by Maine Audubon in July of 2020 stating the hawk did not survive. A bronze statue had been placed near its favorite tree in the park. The bird is depicted chasing after a tasty squirrel (in bronze on the statue pedestal). Audubon commented, “This is the only known statue of a vagrant bird in existence, and a fitting tribute to a beloved visitor.” The year 2020 took so many things from us. We need to remember these as well, and not just with a bronze statue. Do the work. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.