Six birds to look for in March and April
Published: February 24, 2012
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Photo by Jim Chagares
Ducks and geese are among the earliest spring migrants, and Cinnamon Teal is no exception. While most puddle ducks head to the prairies in the mid-continent, Cinnamon Teal breeds in the west. Males vie for the attention of females as they return north, performing short display flights in which their pale-blue wing patches contrast with their cinnamon bodies and heads. By the time the ducks reach their breeding grounds, pairs usually have formed. Look for them in groups of fewer than 40 birds in wetlands, marshes, and ponds from central Texas and Colorado west.See eBird's current distribution map for Cinnamon Teal.Photo by Jim Chagares
Most Cinnamon Teal don’t migrate
The Cinnamon Teal we see in North America belong to one subspecies (Anas cyanoptera septentrionalium) that migrates between nesting areas in the west and wintering sites from California to Texas to southern Guatemala.
But in South America, four other subspecies can be found from Colombia to Peru, Bolivia, and the Patagonian regions of Argentina. A recent analysis of all five subspecies shows that most of the birds do not migrate.
Larger subspecies occupy high elevations in the Andes Mountains and occur at higher latitudes in Patagonia, while smaller subspecies are found at lower elevations, according to a 2010 paper in Ornithological Monographs, published by the American Ornithologists’ Union. The smallest subspecies, A. c. tropica, occurs only in tropical lowlands in Colombia. Authors Robert Wilson and Kevin McCracken of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and Thomas Valqui of the Centro de Ornitología y Biodiversidad in Peru measured specimens of each subspecies.
“South American subspecies, with the exception of the southernmost populations in Argentina, may be predominantly nonmigratory,” they wrote.
The second-largest subspecies, A. c. cyanoptera, is the most widespread, occupying a wide range of habitats from coastal Peru to southern Patagonia. Its migratory habits are not well understood, however.
“Little information is available on the movements of individual teal between the lowlands and highlands of South America,” the authors report.
eBird is the real-time online checklist operated by the Cornell Lab
of Ornithology and Audubon. Marshall Iliff, Brian Sullivan, and Chris
Wood are eBird project leaders. Submit your bird sightings at ebird.org.