BIDDEFORD (NEWS CENTER Maine) — A bird species believed to have been seen only once before in the United States was spotted this week in Biddeford, much to the delight of Maine's birding community and many enthusiasts across the country.
According to Maine Audubon, a woman posted a photo of a "weird looking hawk" she spotted Monday along Maddox Pond Road in Biddeford, believed to be the first such record of any sighting in Maine.
The photo went viral among internet bird-identifying communities and sustained critique regarding its legitimacy, Maine Audubon said, writing, "any rare bird sighting should be met with some skepticism, but this unprecedented record almost brought out conspiracy theorists."
Why? Because it looked like a great black hawk, a large raptor native to the Neotropics in Central and South America, an area that's at least 2,000 miles southeast of Biddeford at its closest distance.
The nation's first apparent sighting on record, pending acceptance by rare bird committees, came earlier this year when a great black hawk was photographed in South Padre Island, Texas.
The US is included in a region known to bird watchers as the "ABA Area," which essentially includes North America north of Mexico.
A previous record did at one point exist in Florida. However, due to its unknown origin, it has since been rejected by the birding community, the Audubon said.
Doug Hitchcox, a staff naturalist at Maine Audubon, set out Tuesday and Wednesday to spot the bird but had no luck. A final attempt Thursday at first seemed like the nail in the coffin, but after an hour of looking, there it was, roosting in a short pine near a pond off Lily Pond Road.
"I just relocated the GREAT BLACK HAWK near the northern intersection of Lily Pond Road and Fortunes Rocks Road in Biddeford," Hitchcox wrote in a blog post published shortly before 6 p.m. "It's been sitting in a pine with agitated robins giving away it's presence. I'll still around as long as I can; call if you can't find me and need directions."
Hitchcox said the bird was fairly calm — given its large size and noise from the group watching — and moved twice, flying into private yards and looping back to a group of trees where it was apparently roosting.
Hitchcox posted some tips for those willing to catch a glimpse of the rare creature. You can find those here.