The great black hawk that captured the state’s hearts and minds after it was rescued during a snowstorm before eventually succumbing to frostbite will live on as a display in a state museum.
Erynn Call, a Maine raptor biologist, told the Portland Press Herald that the rare hawk will be mounted and displayed at the Maine State Museum in Augusta. The decision was made by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Though the bird wasn’t a Maine native, Call told the Portland paper that the peripatetic bird’s journey is an important story to share with visitors to the museum.
Native to Central and South America, the great black hawk was the first of its kind to be spotted in the United States, Doug Hitchcox, an Audubon staff naturalist, told the BDN in November. It was first spotted in Maine in early August before it turned up in Portland, where it became a minor celebrity as birders flocked to Deering Oaks Park to catch a glimpse of the rare bird.
Great black hawks do not usually fly north beyond Mexico, and it was unclear what brought this particular bird so far beyond its normal range. But the tropical bird ran into trouble on Jan. 20 when a major storm brought freezing temperatures, snow and sleet to the state. The tropical hawk was ill-equipped to deal with the Maine winter.
The bird was rescued and brought to Avian Haven, a wild bird rehabilitation center in Freedom, where it was treated for what was believed to be minor frostbite on its feet. That frostbite was soon found to have spread to its lower legs, and then veterinarians on Jan. 30 found under the hawk’s bandages extensive frostbite damage to its feet, which had become “discolored” and were beginning to “decompose.”
Staff at Avian Haven decided shortly thereafter to euthanize the great black hawk, a decision the center said at the time in a lengthy Facebook post was the only one fair to the suffering hawk.