Thursday, December 27, 2007

Cinnamon Teal--Anas cyanoptera

Male and Female Cinnamon Teal

Cinnamon Teals are year-round residents of Southern California and Orange County. They are a native American species. A cinnamon, reddish-brown duck, it is small in comparison to the Mallard. The Cinnamon Teal male has orange-red eyes.

Notice how big the Mallard looks. This is a normal-sized Mallard, not a hybrid. The photograph was taken at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary.

Cinnamon Teals are dabbling ducks. They spend a lot of their time head-down in the water. They come up for air and then, down again into the muddy water. "Just try and get a picture!" they seem to quack. It took me at least six months to get a clear picture of a Cinnamon Teal with its head up. I had their necks, their backs, and their butts, but the whole duck eluded me. How did I finally get the shots? Patience, patience, patience. Birding is a lot like photography. If you want the really good sightings or photographs, you stay and watch and wait. Finally, you will be rewarded.

Most of my pictures looked like this in the beginning.

The bill which you don't see when it is dabbling is reminiscent of the Northern Shoveler. It is big for a smaller bird, and pretty handy, too. So what are these little ducks dabbling for? The Cinnamon Teal eats roots, insects, mollusks, and seeds. It frequently forages in the shallow water , but also on the land. It dabbles on the surface like the Northern Shoveler or head down in the water like the Northern Pintail. Unlike diving ducks, dabbling ducks aren't doing any underwater swimming. They have smaller feet than ducks like Ring-necked Ducks, Bufflehead Ducks, and Surf Scoters because they don't need built in paddles to propel them beneath the surface. The nickname of "puddle duck" for dabbling ducks is an apt one even if they are found in water somewhat deeper than a puddle. You won't find them in the middle of a lake or deep river. They are in the shallow water dabbling on the surface or just below it for those seeds and roots, mollusks, or insects.

Preening those eye-catching feathers. (Green-winged Teal behind.)

Cinnamon Teals can be found in places with water since that is where they mostly feed. They like marshes, lakes, ponds, estuaries that have food they can eat and shelter. Ponds and lakes or other bodies of water with no vegetation probably won't attract a Cinnamon Teal. It is usually not the sort to be found in a neighborhood park or even a woodsy regional park. They are definitely wilder than the average Mallard or American Wigeon. So where in Orange County would you see Cinnamon Teals?

Cinnamon Teals in a seasonal puddle outside San Jacinto Wildlife Area in Riverside County.

San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Newport Back Bay, and other areas like those would be the most likely environments. You might also find them along rivers like the Santa Ana River as long as it is location with both food and shelter.

Dabbling in one of the duck ponds at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary. Notice the black pattern on the back. The female has a similar lighter pattern.

Remember that male Cinnamon Teals are only Cinnamon part of the year. During a brief time from July to September (Sibley) the males look much like the female, but with a warmer brown and the characteristic orange-red eyes. Notice, too, that the Cinnamon Teal male is not all cinnamon, but has a patterned black back.

Pair of Cinnamon Teals

Cinnamon Teals are highly sought after by hunters, but being a small bird and a fast bird with unpredictable turns in flight, they are hard to shoot. Cinnamon Teals cannot be hunted in the Orange County locations listed in this post.

Male and female dabbling in shallow water. Notice the broken eye ring on the female. Notice also that she does not have a red eye.

Ducks in general tend to hybridize, but Cinnamon Teals are well known for hybridizing with Blue-winged Teals, so you may see hybrids in the area. So what do they look like? Well, they are variable. Many look a little bit like both. You might see a cinnamon colored bird somewhat like the Cinnamon Teal with a crescent on its face like the Blue-winged Teal. There are some links below that have pictures of hybrids.

Cinnamon Teals draw attention.

The Cinnamon Teal draws attention wherever it goes. It really is a beauty. Get familiar with all the plumages so you can id it in Spring, Summer, Winter, or Fall. Then when you are out birding the OC, you may just see our resident California native, the Cinnamon Teal.

A Male Cinnamon Teal

Compare duck sizes and know what to expect.

Male and female Cinnamon Teal at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

Duck Size

Cinnamon Teal 16" long Wingspan 22"

Blue-winged Teal 15.5 " long Wingspan 24"

Green-winged Teal 14 " long Wingspan 23"

American Wigeon 20 " long Wingspan 32"

Northern Shoveler 19" long Wingspan 30"

Northern Pintail 21" long Wingspan 32"

Mallard 23 " long Wingspan 35"

Male Cinnamon Teal at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

OC Birder Girl Links

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve aka Newport Back Bay

San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

Other Dabbling Ducks (Puddle Ducks)

American Wigeon


Northern Pintail

Northern Shoveler--Anas clypeata

The Wild Ducks of Orange County

External Links

All About Birds

Detailed article on the Cinnamon Teal includes photographs, description, range, food, behavior, cool facts, and more.

Animal Diversity Web: Cinnamon Teal

Very detailed information on the Cinnamon Teal including geographic range, photographs, sounds, physical description, habitat, food, reproduction, lifespan, ecosystem roles, conservation status, and more.

Nature Works: Cinnamon Teal

Great information and pictures from New Hampshire's Public Television's Nature Works. Includes diet, range, life cycle, and behavior.

US Geological Survey: Cinnamon Teal

Short, but informative article on the Cinnamon Teal.

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Short article about the Cinnamon Teal.

The Great Backyard Count: Totals for Cinnamon Teals

Totals over the years of Cinnamon Teals in California from the Audubon Society. Orange County cities included.

Searchable Ornithological Research Archive

Search Sora for articles about the Cinnamon Teal. There are over 500 articles.

Arizona Field Ornithologists (AZFO)

Take a look at this interesting hybrid and the explanation for it.

Backyard Cam: Cinnamon Teal Hybrid

Pat's Backyard Cam is a great site. Check out this Cinnamon Teal Hybrid, and don't forget to check out the rest of her site at Pat's Backyard Cam.

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