This dabbling duck is a common breeder throughout the western United States. Its breeding range extends north into southern British Columbia and Alberta, and as far east as the Great Plains states. These ducks spend winters in south Texas, Mexico, Central America, and northern regions of South America. There are two subspecies of Cinnamon teal that occur year-round in the Andes and prairie marshes of South America.
Males are distinctively colored, with burnt orange head, sides and belly, brown back, black rump and sky blue feathers on the inner leading edge of the wings. They eyes are bright red or orange. Females are mottled brown and white, with brown eyes, but also have the blue wing feathers. They are about 16 inches long and have a wingspan of just under two feet.
Cinnamon teals feed by dabbling at submerged vegetation in the shallow ponds and marshes, straining plant matter through their large, wide beaks. During fall migration they take mostly plant matter and seeds, but during the spring they feed more on aquatic insects, mollusks, and other animal prey. They are closely related to the Blue-winged teal and the two species can interbreed and produce hybrid offspring.
A female builds her nest in dense marsh vegetation near water, where she broods a clutch of eggs that may number up to 16. She leads the precocial chicks to the water after they hatch where the young ducklings begin dabbling for food and feeding themselves. The female may distract a potential predator from her young by enacting a broken-wing display. The males of the Cinnamon teal sometimes remain with the females and ducklings as they swim around. But mates normally only remain together during the nesting season and select new partners the following year.
The Audubon Society reports that Cinnamon teal populations are abundant and stable at this time and may experience some breeding habitat losses across the western states, as well as range expansions to the east, as climate warming proceeds.
Photos were taken at the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge near San Antonio, NM, in late March, 2022 by James Taulman. Camera was the Nikon P900.