**UPDATE 30 September 2020**
6a - photo of the Toronto bird flapping which confirms it as an adult male
19-21 - three photos of a different bird at Forest (Lambton Co.)
Last Saturday, while conducting our Great Canadian Birdathon (still looking for donations - we've already raised over $10,000 for bird conservation!) we came across a distinctly "cinnamon" teal just outside of Rondeau Provincial Park, Ontario. We quickly got the word out and subsequently lots of people had a chance to look for it. Since then I've been trying to figure out whether it was indeed a Cinnamon Teal or maybe just a cinnamon teal. This post is an attempt to assemble all the information I have along with photos from a variety of people (thanks to them all for sharing!).
I'll post a bit of back-story, then photos of some different birds that have been seen in Ontario this fall, followed by some discussion. Please leave comments here or if you're on Facebook on this thread at Advanced Bird ID.
Cinnamon Teal status in Ontario
Cinnamon Teal is a very rare bird in Ontario. Prior to 2020 there were 19 records accepted by the OBRC dating back to 1983. Five of those come from northwestern Ontario (Rainy River and Thunder Bay Districts) and the rest are from southern Ontario. The seasonal distribution (based on first observation) is:
Spring (18 April-11 June) plus an outlier of 4 March - 13 records
Fall (17 November-8 December) - 2 records
Summering records (4 records)
- 28 May-9 July 1983 (pair, nest with eggs)
- 23 June-21 July (pair, but the female died)
- 1 July
- 27 May-23 June
In my opinion, there is a huge gap in records in August-September (no records!) when they are exiting the northern breeding grounds. This is also the time of year when southern Ontario sees by far the biggest concentrations of Blue-winged Teal. Blue-winged Teal is a former common breeder in Ontario but has declined significantly to the point it barely breeds in most parts of the province and I assume at least some of the flush of birds we see here in August and September come from the west.
This gap in records is evident not just in Ontario, but throughout the east.
So why the gap in records? It must be an issue with identification. Females are much harder to separate from Blue-winged Teal (the only records in Ontario of females are of birds paired with basic-plumage ("breeding plumage") males). In August to September, male Cinnamon Teal will be in alternate plumage ("non-breeding" or "eclipse" plumage) so much harder to identify.
Fall 2020 reports
Toronto - August 31, 2020
The story starts at the end of August when Paul Prior found a similar bird in Toronto. He posted it along with photos as a possible Cinnamon Teal and Ron Pittaway sent photos to Peter Pyle in California. Peter replied that it looked fine for Cinnamon Teal and that the rusty breast is typical of adult females in alternate (eclipse) plumage and rules out Blue-winged Teal. I can't speak for other birders, but I saw those photos and thought that it really stuck out and gave me a search image to look for. Here are some of Paul Prior's photos taken August 31, 2020:
|1. "cinnamon" teal at Toronto, August 31, 2020. Photo by Paul Prior.|
|3. "cinnamon" teal at Toronto, August 31, 2020. Photo by Paul Prior.|
|5. "cinnamon" teal at Toronto, August 31, 2020. Photo by Paul Prior.|
|6a. "cinnamon" teal at Toronto, August 31, 2020. Photo by Paul Prior.|
With the search image of a "BWTE with rusty tones" in mind, we (Ken Burrell, Mike Burrell, and Jim Burrel) found this bird on September 19, 2020. We couldn't manage good photos on the day we found it, but here are the best from subsequent days. We were also somewhat rushed as we were conducting a big day raising money for bird conservation. In the field, this bird stuck out as having really reddish tones concentrated in the breast, but extending down the flanks and into the undertail. We discussed the bill in the field as being slightly larger than the nearby Blue-winged Teal but not obviously massive. On September 20, 2020 a second bird was noted with the first as also having a reddish breast, but not as extensive reddish elsewhere on the body.
I sent some of these photos (of "both" birds) to Peter Pyle and Alvao Jaramillo for their opinion. Alvaro thought the first could be a Cinnamon Teal but had reservations about it, particularly the bill (I'm paraphrasing) but felt the second bird was more likely a rusty looking Blue-winged Teal.
Peter at first thought the more rusty bird looked fine for an adult male Cinnamon Teal (aged by evenly-shaped back feathers) and the rusty feathers could be left over from basic (breeding) plumage in spring. The second bird he thought also looked OK for an eclipse adult male (sexed based on large bill). After some back and forth with him where I asked about certain features (more on that below) he agreed that some things were inconsistent with a pure Cinnamon Teal. Note that as he pointed out it was hard to be sure which photos were of which bird.
|7. "cinnamon" teal at Chatham-Kent, September 20, 2020. Photo by Mourad Jabra|
|8. "cinnamon" teal at Chatham-Kent, September 20, 2020. Photo by Mourad Jabra|
|10. "cinnamon" teal at Chatham-Kent, September 20, 2020. Photo by Mourad Jabra|
|12. "cinnamon" teal (note second bird) at Chatham-Kent, September 20, 2020. Photo by Mourad Jabra|
|13. "cinnamon" teal at Chatham-Kent, September 22, 2020. Photo by Garry Sadler|
|15. "cinnamon" teal at Chatham-Kent, September 23, 2020. Photo by Denise Dykema|
|17. "cinnamon" teal at Lambton Co., September 24, 2020. Photo by James Holdsworth|
|19. "cinnamon" teal (different from 17-18) at Lambton Co., September 24, 2020. Photo by Mark Buchanan|
|20. "cinnamon" teal (different from 17-18) at Lambton Co., September 24, 2020. Photo by Mark Buchanan|
|21. "cinnamon" teal (different from 17-18) at Lambton Co., September 24, 2020. Photo by Mark Buchanan|