The Great Black Hawk had NEVER been spotted in the USA until 2018! Its normal range is South America to Mexico. The fact that one was being seen periodically in Maine this Fall was simply astounding. Since Thanksgiving I had been keeping a close eye on the rare bird alerts. Two close buddies of mine saw the bird yesterday, so with the help of American Airlines, I made my move this morning.

By 10:30am I was in Deering Oaks Park reading one of the Portland park ranger signs carefully placed around the copse of trees most frequented by the Great Black Hawk. Several birders had been there since dawn….no sign of our code 5 visitor. The winds were calm but the temperature was 19F.


The park is host to a healthy gray squirrel population, a very popular food source for most raptors. The Great Black Hawk has reportedly feasted on at least one of these unsuspecting creatures daily.

After a couple of hours of pacing around the park, occasionally sharing brief conversations with the dozen or so other birders, but mostly looking at the sky, the trees, even the ground….I noticed a raptor in a nearby tree. For a moment I thought the Birding Gods had smiled on me once again. But no, it was a Red-Tailed Hawk.


More than five hours had elapsed and I couldn’t feel my fingers or my toes. Adrenaline had sustained me until now. I was frozen. The sun sets at 4:03pm up there. I was done.

So….this is not a triumphant story about ABA Area Lifer #776. Rather, it’s a chronicle of one day in my life where patience was tested and subsequent frustration must be conquered by the fact that trying is more important than the end result. Just writing this down helps take the sting out of today.

About George C. Wood

A birder since age ten, but not necessarily an avid "lister", I am closing in on 700 (*800!) species seen in North America.....hoping to capture each sighting with my camera.
This entry was posted in Quest for 700 (*800!). Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to GREAT BLACK HAWK

  1. Jeff Day says:

    Keep the faith GCW’75!

  2. Julie Foster says:

    it’s actually kind of good to hear about a “failure” — keeps things balanced, gives us an idea of reality. Sorry you didn’t see it though.

  3. Mace says:

    Great try, George. (I’m reminded of Blutarski in Animal House: “Did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”)

  4. Dorothy Weisbord says:

    Enjoy blog George……I see lots of hawks, but think they are red tails. I did see very large one other day…????? anyway please come over one morning, a nice morning, we’d like to walk with you. Love D


  5. burkebiz says:

    Sorry it didn’t work out GDub. Keep on keepin’ on.

    Sent from my iPhone


  6. Lindy Snider says:

    Great story! You could go stay at the treehouse!

  7. Austin Hepburn says:

    Thanks George. The challenges of birding; well written and entertaining.

  8. Steve Stuart AOL says:


    I’m confident you will spot that bird someday. All the best to you and The Wood Zoo for The Holidays.


    Sent from my iPhone


  9. Scott Shaw says:

    Hi George,

    I love reading your tales of bird watching. Better luck next time. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and New Year. All the best.

    Scott M. Shaw
    CEO and President
    Lincoln Educational Services
    200 Executive Drive, Suite 340
    West Orange, NJ 07052
    973.736.9340 Ext. 49980


  10. Thomas, Brinton (RBC Wealth Mgmt) says:

    From the cheap seats……I think that hawk froze to death before you got there!!! Brinton

  11. George Carrington Wood says:

    Hiya Brinton! That hawk was seen TODAY…alive. I may head back up there this wkd:)

  12. Shelley says:

    Hang in there, George! Shelley deButts

    Sent from my shoe phone


  13. Indeed, I saw a couple of YouTube videos of this Great Black Hawk feasting on a grey squirrel. There was an instance where a hawk captured a squirrel, ate some of it until it had its fill, then came back the next day to finish the rest of the squirrel. The hawk actually remembered to come back, which I think is so cool!

  14. Joe Weisbord says:

    Always an inspiration!

  15. James Buck says:

    So true (about “having tried, tried again”) but you’ve enjoyed such remarkable success…. We’ve been spoiled! Get him/her next time, Woody!

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