Friends of Deering Oaks is trying to raise $29,000 to pay a Maine artist to create a life-sized bronze sculpture of the rare great black hawk that took up residence in the park last year.

The raptor captured widespread attention from birders and the public after it settled in the park, thousands of miles from its native range in Central and South America, from late November until it was found unable to fly during a snowstorm on Jan. 20.

It was only the second time a great black hawk had been seen in the United States, Maine Audubon said.

If the fundraising campaign is successful, the organization hopes the artwork can be installed in November, about a year after the hawk – referred to as a vagrant by birders because it strayed from its natural habitat – was first spotted in Portland.

The group will sign a contract with wildlife artist David Smus, an award-winning bronze sculptor from Harmony, to create the sculpture once the funds have been raised, said Anne Pringle, president of the nonprofit Friends group.

The sculpture will be placed on a pedestal in the park and feature an interpretative sign explaining how the hawk came to Maine from southern climes.

Under the Friends group’s proposal, the sculpture would have to be accepted as a gift by the Portland Public Art Committee and added to the city’s art collection. Pringle said the installation would also need approval from Portland’s Parks Department, Parks Commission, the Historic Preservation Commission and the City Council.

Pringle said any funds raised beyond the group’s goal of $29,000 will be donated to Avian Haven, a bird hospital based in Freedom. A panel of experts will review Smus’ final model to ensure ornithological accuracy.

Pringle said city officials have been briefed on the project and have expressed their support. The city suggested the sculpture be erected in the vicinity of the park ravine near the park’s border along Deering Avenue.

The great black hawk quickly became a local celebrity after it was first seen in Deering Oaks. The American Birding Association said it flew to Maine from Mexico and Texas. It was treated at Avian Haven for frostbite in January and later euthanized.

The hawk placed first in the American Birding Association’s Top 10 Craziest Vagrant birds of 2018.

“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,” the ABA wrote in a Jan. 31 blog.

 

 

 

 

 

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