The great black hawk found injured in Deering Oaks during a snowstorm last weekend is improving, but will lose at least part of a toe to frostbite.

The bird was found last Sunday lying in the snow under a cluster of pines in the Portland park, where it had been spotted frequently since late November, and was taken to the nonprofit Avian Haven rehabilitation center in Freedom.

A veterinarian on Wednesday was able to do a thorough exam of the raptor’s toes and found that the bird will likely lose at least part of the outermost toe on its right foot, Avian Haven said in an update on Facebook. The hawk should still be able to use its foot for perching and prey capture, the post said.

So far, the hawk has been eating very well, according to Avian Haven.

Avian Haven also said photos of the great black hawk’s tail and wings were sent to ornithologists “who have studied dozens of photos of this bird taken in Texas in April and, much more recently, in Biddeford and Portland.”

“The ornithologists are certain it is the same bird; we have been told that there are some feather oddities that make it an unmistakable match,” Avian Haven said. “Our photos may or may not allow them to reach a conclusion as to the bird’s subspecies and likely country of origin, which has so far remained uncertain.”


The unusual presence of the raptor in Maine during winter had drawn widespread attention in the news media and on social media and had been visited by birders from across the country.

Great black hawks are native to Central and South America. The one spotted in Deering Oaks was first seen in August in Biddeford. Bird watchers are not sure how it ended up in Maine, but every year birds like this one – called vagrants by ornithologists – fly outside their geographic range.

Doug Hitchcox, a naturalist with Maine Audubon, said he thinks the hawk will have the greatest chance of survival if it is released in Deering Oaks Park after it recovers and after winter is over.

“The injury is unfortunate but definitely doesn’t sound like it will impede its ability to be successful in Maine,” Hitchcox said in an email. “That said, the likelihood of survival for any vagrant so far out of its range is very low. We need to remember that this is a natural vagrant that came on its own and had survived since August, including several cold snaps.”

The decision about if or where the raptor will be released will primarily rest with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

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