A bronze statue of the great black hawk that made an epic journey from south of the border to Maine could soon be perched in Portland’s Deering Oaks Park.
The Portland Press Herald reports that the Friends of Deering Oaks Park are in talks with other groups about commissioning a life-sized, bronze homage to the late raptor, whose improbable journey and tragic end captured the state’s hearts and minds.
The statue would be privately funded and need permission from the city of Portland before it could be installed in the public park, the Press Herald reports. If approved, it would likely be paired with a panel to tell the hawk’s story.
“We feel there is a story to tell,” Portland resident Diane Davidson told the Press Herald.
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. The American Birding Association named the raptor its top vagrant of 2018, flying first to Texas — which was already far enough beyond the typical great black hawk’s range to be notable — before continuing north to Maine.
“The joy that this individual bird brought to the North American birding community in 2018, to those who saw it and those of us who were just following along, is truly remarkable. The scope of its story is undeniably epic. There is no other bird that can top it as craziest vagrant of 2018,” Nate Swick, the social media manager for the American Birding Association, wrote in a blog post.
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.
The rare hawk will eventually be mounted and displayed at the Maine State Museum in Augusta.
The effort to create a bronze statue of the great black hawk is just one of many projects under consideration for Deering Oaks Park, including reintroducing paddle boats to the duck pond and installing a 100-foot zip line, according to the Press Herald.