The great black hawk that suffered frostbite on its feet during a winter storm last week continues to see its condition deteriorate.
Avian Haven, a wild bird rehabilitation center in Freedom where the raptor has been treated since its rescue from Portland’s Deering Oaks Park in the middle of a snowstorm, said Tuesday that frostbite has likely claimed at least two toes on each of the hawk’s feet.
“We are extremely sad to report that the hawk’s feet have deteriorated markedly in the last 24 hours. It now appears that at least two toes on each foot will most likely be lost, and we are concerned that the overall viability of both feet has been compromised,” Avian Haven said in a post on its Facebook page.
That development comes as the raptor’s condition has continued to deteriorate this week. On Monday, the frostbite initially found on the hawk’s feet spread to its lower legs, prompting an outpouring of support from humans from across the state who have followed the rare bird’s rehabilitation.
Avian Haven explained in the post that birds native to cold climates have more elaborate heat exchange mechanisms to help protect them from extreme cold, something this tropical raptor does not have. Its long legs also likely made it difficult for the bird to tuck its legs under its body to keep them warm, according to Avian Haven.
Native to Central and South America, the great black hawk is the first of its kind to be spotted in the United States, Doug Hitchcox, an Audubon staff naturalist, told the BDN in November. Its appearance in Portland late last year made it a minor celebrity as birders flocked to Deering Oaks to catch a glimpse of the rare bird.
Great black hawks do not usually fly north beyond Mexico, and it’s unclear what brought this particular bird so far beyond its normal range. But the tropical bird ran into trouble on Jan. 20 when a major storm brought freezing temperatures, snow and sleet to the state.
What comes next for the raptor isn’t clear. Mark Latti, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, told the BDN last week that officials are assessing the bird’s condition before deciding on a course of action.
The hawk continues to undergo treatment at Avian Haven, where additional tests were scheduled for Wednesday. A prosthetic foot would in theory have been able to serve as a crutch for the hawk, but that seems unlikely to work now that both feet are deteriorating because of frostbite, according to Avian Haven.