Saturday 8 September 2018

Great Kiskadee - a new species for Canada

Yesterday afternoon, an iNaturalist user by the name of rainbowdragon posted photos of a Great Kiskadee to iNaturalist, taken that morning at Rondeau Provincial Park. Mike Burrell was tagged on the record by another user and he quickly got the word out to Ontbirds. Needless to say, pandemonium quickly ensued. The reason? Here is a range map of Great Kiskadee sightings, taken from eBird.

Great Kiskadee range (via eBird)

Zoomed in to show just North America:

Great Kiskadee range (via eBird)

Yesterday evening, several birders were rewarded with brief views of the Great Kiskadee, though many other struck out. I was in Grimsby when I heard about the Great Kiskadee and could have made it to Rondeau 15 minutes before sunset, but figured that I would hold off. That proved to be the correct decision since it was not seen, following the brief encounter shortly after 6:00 PM.

This morning my alarm went off at 3:00 AM and I was soon on the road. By 6:30 AM I had pulled into the parking lot at the Marsh Trail just as the sky was brightening, signalling the the start of another day. Already at that early hour 20 vehicles were present.

Over the next hour small groups of birders collected at various intervals along the trail. I was staking out an area with Brett Fried and Erika Hentsch when a yell from down the trail sent us sprinting. The Great Kiskadee had just been spotted! It had ducked behind a willow when we arrived a few seconds later, but soon it reappeared, providing awesome looks, though somewhat obscured by vegetation, for the forty or so birders that were present. The bird was tucked away behind some vegetation which made photography a little tricky. This was the best I could do initially!

Great Kiskadee - Rondeau Provincial Park, Ontario

Fortunately the Great Kiskadee was happy to sit on the branch for the next ten minutes or so and eventually many of the birders present were able to soak in the views of the rare southern vagrant. Photos were a little tricky since there were only a few windows through the vegetation. This is the best I could manage.

Great Kiskadee - Rondeau Provincial Park, Ontario

It sure seemed more than a little out of place observing a Great Kiskadee along the shores of Rondeau Bay. Anyone who has visited the Neotropics can attest to how Great Kiskadee is one of the more noticeable birds throughout much of their range, and their calls are constantly heard even during the heat of the day.

Despite its status as a tropical species that only reaches as far north as Texas, Great Kiskadee was not totally off the radar for Ontario birders. In recent years there have been records far to the north of their known range, including South Dakota, Kansas, Colorado, South Carolina and Tennessee (according to eBird). I am sure I am not alone among Ontario birders, having daydreamed about finding one at my local patch. But to see one in the flesh was much better than any daydream!

Great Kiskadee - Rondeau Provincial Park, Ontario

Not only is Great Kiskadee a new species for Ontario, but it is new to Canada as well. There were many smiling faces at Rondeau this morning!

Great Kiskadee twitch - Rondeau Provincial Park, Ontario

As of the time of this writing the Great Kiskadee is still present, though it has been rather elusive and only occasionally showing itself. Several birders have reported that they have heard it call (the classic "kis-ka-dee" call) so it is no doubt still present. What a crazy few weeks it has been in Ontario birding!

1 comment:

Jonathan Wilhelm said...

What an amazing find. This was probably a species you wouldn't have considered when you put together your 20 species yet to show up in Ontario list.