Bird of the Week

Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the cinnamon teal.
The cinnamon teal (spatula cyanoptera), is a small, crow-sized, dabbling duck that is strictly western. Cinnamon teals are seen in Pagosa Springs from late February into September, and breeding is common here. Several males may court one female using preening motions, mock feedings and chasing in short flights. The female chooses the nest sight and builds the nest well concealed amongst weeds, salt grass and sedges. A female lays nine to 12 whitish to pale buff eggs and, if threatened, may use the “broken-wing” act for distraction. After an incubation period of 21-25 days, she leads the hatchlings to water to find their own food. Within seven weeks, they are in flight.
The male’s plumage is bright cinnamon on both head and body with dark tail, rump and undertail. The upper wing has a light-blue patch and back of wing is iridescent green. His eyes are red. In contrast, the female is gray/brown with dark eyes. The back of her wing has little green. Both have dark bills with slight white area at the base.
These ducks favor marshes, fresh ponds and alkaline lakes. Their diet consists of seeds and plant materials in the fall, but they consume higher amounts of animal matter (insects, small crustaceans, snails) in the spring. Using a larger bill than average, this teal forages in shallow water with head partly submerged to strain food from water.
To learn about the effects of climate change on birds, go to climate.audubon.org.
For information on local bird-watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.

This story was posted on April 14, 2019.