Skip to main content

Dig Imperial Beach

Visiting at the Estuary Now, An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem And Bird Of The Week, the Cinnamon Teal

Feb 06, 2019 05:39PM ● By Paul Spear

Visiting at the Estuary Now, An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, Bryan Brillhart Photography present the “Dig IB” Bird of the Week, the Cinnamon Teal


This week’s “Bird of the Week” is the Cinnamon Teal. While many of our marsh ducks are found from coast to coast, the Cinnamon Teal is strictly western. Unique among our northern dabbling ducks, this teal also has nesting populations in South America. A close relative of Blue-winged Teal (and sometimes hybridizing with it), the Cinnamon Teal has a slightly larger bill, better developed for straining food items out of the water. In some ways this species seems intermediate between Blue-winged Teal and Northern Shoveler.

Cinnamon Teals are common and widespread. Their habitat is in marshes, and on fresh ponds. They favor fresh or alkaline shallow lakes, and extensive marshes. They are generally not found in coastal salt marshes, and on migration, may pause on any kind of small pond or reservoir.

 Cinnamon Teals usually forage in shallow water, swimming forward with heads partly submerged, straining food from the water. One feeding bird may follow another, taking advantage of food stirred up by paddling actions of the first bird. Occasionally they will feed on land near water. Diet is mainly seeds. Plant material in their diet includes seeds of smartweeds, sedges, grasses, and pondweeds. They also eat insects, snails, and small crustaceans. In one study, migrants consumed mostly seeds and other plant material in fall, and a higher proportion of animal matter (mainly insects) in spring.

Several males may court one female, making ritualized mock feeding and preening movements. Short display flights may develop into pursuit flights, with males chasing females. Nest sites are usually close to water among a good cover of sedges, weeds, and salt grass, generally well concealed. Nests are a shallow depression with some dead grass and weeds added, lined with down. Females select nest sites and build their nests.

After mating, females lay 9-12, sometimes 4-16,whitish to very pale buff eggs. Incubation is by 

only, in about 21-25 days. Females lead young to water after they hatch. Young find their own food; and are capable of flight 7 weeks after hatching. If danger threatens young, adult females may put on broken-wing act as a distraction display. Unlike most duck species, males may not abandon their mate until near the time the eggs hatch, and sometimes are seen accompanying females and their young broods.

The Cinnamon Teal is a winter visitor to our great Tijuana Estuary. Look for this species and the many other duck species now occupying the Estuary.

Until next week, happy birding!

If you would like to see more of Bryan's Bird Photos you can click on this link:

Bryan Brillhart Photography or Bird of the Week



Note: If you would like to make sure you don't miss stories like this or any other news about the community of Imperial Beach and South County, please be sure to sign up for our newsletter. Please note that every subscriber of our newsletter receives a Community Calendar of Events at the 1st of every month. Click here to: Subscribe

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to Dig Imperial Beach's free newsletter to catch every headline