Bird of the Month November 2019

Cinnamon Teal

Spatula cyanoptera


The Cinnamon Teal is slightly larger than October’s bird-of-the-month, the Green-winged Teal and the other teal species, the Blue-winged Teal. The breeding male is nearly all rusty red with a black back and tail (feather edges lined with white), black bill and red eyes. The female is the usual mottled gray-brown with a black bill and black eye. The Cinnamon Teal has a large head for its size and as the genus name implies, the bill is large and spoon like, similar to a Shoveler but smaller. Both male and female have a bright blue patch visible when flying and sometimes when swimming.

Behavior and Habitat

Cinnamon Teal are dabbling ducks and prefer shallow marshes. They feed mainly on seeds, feeding in shallow water. They also feed on a variety of invertebrates including beetles, midges and many different kinds of flies.

Cinnamon Teal are fast fliers and, as dabbling ducks, jump straight into the air instead of running across the water surface to get airborne.

The female Cinnamon Teal often places her nest close to water and below matted, dead stems of vegetation so it is completely concealed on all sides and from above. She approaches the nest through tunnels in the vegetation. She may lay from four to sixteen eggs and in some places may have two broods a year.

The Cinnamon Teal is a Western bird, only occasionally seen east of the Mississippi River. It also has two distinct populations, one in North America and another in South America with four subspecies.

Similar Species

There are two other teal, the Green-winged and Blue-winged, that are small and have a similar body shape to the Cinnamon Teal. However, they lack the all red color of the male Cinnamon Teal. Cinnamon Teal also have larger bills and heads. The Northern Shoveler has a larger bill but sports a green head.

When and where found at Camas NWR

According to the Camas NWR Bird List, the Cinnamon Teal is common on the Refuge in the spring and summer months but less so during the fall. They nest on the Refuge as well. Look for them in the permanent and temporary marshes.


“Cinnamon Teal are numerous, but their populations have declined since 1968, according to the North American Breeding Bird SurveyPartners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 380,000, rates the species a 13 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, and includes the species on the Yellow Watch List for declining populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service carefully monitors duck populations and hunting levels; in recent years, about 800,000 Cinnamon and Blue-winged Teal have been taken by hunters in the U.S. each year. As a wetland species, Cinnamon Teal is susceptible to contaminants from agriculture and industry through most of its range. In western North America, loss of wetlands to agriculture, grazing, and especially development of human settlements has meant massive loss of habitat for Cinnamon Teal. The wetlands that remain may be polluted or converted to deepwater reservoirs for recreational fishing, making them less useful to Cinnamon Teal.”

Text by Terry Thomas. Source:

Photo by Terry Thomas.