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April continues to provide, at least in terms of potential ABA Area 1st records in border states. This time the place is South Padre Island, Texas, and the birder is Javi Gonzalez who was alerted yesterday (4/24) to a large raptor by the resident Great-tailed Grackles. Subsequent photos by Javi and Alex Lamoreaux confirmed the bird as an juvenile Great Black Hawk, a potential 1st ABA Area record and one that has been on the short list of good vagrant candidates for decades.

The bird was seen on the southern end of the island, in the vicinity of Sheepshead Street. Despite intensive searches throughout the day it was not seen again, though it could conceivably be anywhere in the area.

Great Black Hawk is a wide-ranging neotropical raptor, found from northern Mexico through most of tropical South America. It comes as close to the ABA Area as southern Tamaulipas and has long been considered a good candidate for vagrancy into southern Texas or southern Arizona/New Mexico. Interestingly, this is not the first time Great Black Hawk has been documented to occur in the ABA Area. For decades birds were seen by many birders on Virginia Key in Monroe County, Florida. The whole mysterious story is related in depth by Tropical Audubon Society here. Those birds were never accepted by state records committees by virtue of unknown provenance. Perhaps this individual will prove more genuine.

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Editor, Social Media Manager at American Birding Association
Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog, social media manager for the ABA, and the host of the American Birding Podcast. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children. He is the author of Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.
Nate Swick

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