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Cinnamon Teal vs Blue-winged Teal: A Comparison of North American Teal Species

Distinguished by their captivating plumage and intriguing behaviors, Cinnamon Teals and Blue-winged Teals are two species of dabbling ducks that grace the wetlands of the Americas.

With their distinctive features and habitats, these waterfowl exemplify the diverse avian life within their respective ranges. The warm-toned and plainer face of the Cinnamon Teal contrasts with the cooler gray tones of the Blue-winged Teal.

While the former lacks the white spot behind the bill, the latter displays a unique crescent-shaped mark. Beyond their appearances, their behaviors, nesting habits, and vocalizations offer a fascinating glimpse into the world of these remarkable avian inhabitants.

cinnamon teal vs blue winged teal

Key Differences Between Cinnamon Teal and Blue Winged Teal

Here are some of the key differences between the cinnamon teal and blue winged teal:

Face Color

  • Cinnamon Teal: The face of the Cinnamon Teal is characterized by its warm and distinct reddish-brown hue, often likened to the color of cinnamon. This rich tone sets it apart from other teal species, making it easily recognizable in the field.
  • Blue-winged Teal: In contrast, the face of the Blue-winged Teal lacks the warm tones of the Cinnamon Teal. Instead, it presents a cooler, grayish appearance, a distinguishing feature that helps differentiate it from its cinnamon-colored counterpart.

White Spot Behind Bill (Nonbreeding)

  • Cinnamon Teal: One notable difference between the Cinnamon Teal and the Blue-winged Teal is the absence of a white spot behind the bill in nonbreeding Cinnamon Teals.
    This feature remains consistent throughout the year, providing a reliable marker for identification.
  • Blue-winged Teal: In contrast, the nonbreeding Blue-winged Teals sport a distinctive small white crescent-shaped spot behind their bill.
    This unique marking becomes particularly noticeable when they’re not in their breeding plumage. This feature serves as a helpful visual cue for birdwatchers and researchers.

Wing Patch Color

  • Cinnamon Teal: The wing patch color is another distinguishing characteristic. In Cinnamon Teals, the wing patch retains its cinnamon-brown or reddish hue, consistent with their overall warm coloration. This patch can stand out against their plumage, aiding in their recognition.
  • Blue-winged Teal: Conversely, the Blue-winged Teal derives its name from the striking blue wing patch found on males.
    This vibrant blue stands out prominently and is one of the most recognizable traits of this species. The contrast between the blue wing patch and the rest of their plumage is a key identification feature.

Eye Stripe

  • Cinnamon Teal: A white eye stripe is a distinctive mark seen on Cinnamon Teals. This white line extends from the eye towards the back of the head, providing a stark contrast against the warm cinnamon tones of the face. This feature contributes to their overall appearance.
  • Blue-winged Teal: Blue-winged Teals, on the other hand, lack a prominent eye stripe. This absence of an eye stripe, combined with their grayish face, further sets them apart from Cinnamon Teals. The eye area remains more uniform in color in comparison to their cinnamon-colored counterparts.

Bill Color

  • Cinnamon Teal: The bill color of the Cinnamon Teal is a dark gray shade. This understated bill color complements the warm tones of their face and contributes to their overall color palette. The dark bill stands out against their face and plumage, making it noticeable even from a distance.
  • Blue-winged Teal: Blue-winged Teals share a similar dark gray bill color with Cinnamon Teals. This commonality in bill color is one aspect where these two species bear resemblance.
    However, when considering other distinctive features like the wing patch and face color, the overall appearance remains notably different.

Underside Color

  • Cinnamon Teal: The underside of the Cinnamon Teal is adorned with a bright chestnut color, adding a vibrant contrast to its warm face and overall appearance.
    This distinctive chestnut shade is particularly noticeable on the bird’s belly and flanks, making it a key feature in identifying this species.
  • Blue-winged Teal: In contrast, the underside color of the Blue-winged Teal is paler and lacks the intense chestnut hue found in Cinnamon Teals.
    This difference in coloration extends across the belly and underparts, contributing to the overall cooler and more muted appearance of the Blue-winged Teal.

Breeding Plumage

  • Cinnamon Teal: During the breeding season, male Cinnamon Teals showcase an intricate and captivating plumage.
    Their body is adorned with rich cinnamon-brown tones, often highlighted with intricate patterns that include darker streaks and spots. This breeding plumage is particularly vibrant and eye-catching, helping males attract mates.
  • Blue-winged Teal: Male Blue-winged Teals exhibit a unique breeding plumage of their own. They sport mottled brown feathers with a distinctive iridescent blue wing patch, from which they derive their name.
    This blue patch contrasts sharply with the rest of their plumage, making it a striking feature during courtship displays.

Nonbreeding Plumage

  • Cinnamon Teal: In the nonbreeding season, Cinnamon Teals retain their warm color palette, although the intensity of the cinnamon-brown tones may become more subdued.
    The transition between breeding and nonbreeding plumage in Cinnamon Teals is relatively subtle, maintaining their distinct face and overall appearance.
  • Blue-winged Teal: Nonbreeding Blue-winged Teal undergoes a more noticeable transformation. While females maintain a mottled brown appearance similar to their breeding plumage, males transition to a more cryptic look.
    They develop mottled browns with a distinctive white stripe along their wings, adding a unique and identifiable mark.


  • Cinnamon Teal: Cinnamon Teals are slightly smaller than Blue-winged Teals. This size difference is often apparent when comparing the two species side by side.
    While the distinction might not be as noticeable in isolation, it becomes more evident when observing multiple individuals or in reference to other waterfowl species.
  • Blue-winged Teal: Blue-winged Teals are slightly larger than Cinnamon Teals. This size difference, although modest, contributes to the overall appearance of the birds.
    The contrast in size can be helpful when distinguishing between the two species, especially when considering other features.

Tail Color

  • Cinnamon Teal: The tail feathers of the Cinnamon Teal are predominantly black in color. This dark tail stands out against their warm body plumage and contributes to their distinctive appearance. The contrast between the black tail and the cinnamon-brown body further aids in identification.
  • Blue-winged Teal: Similar to Cinnamon Teals, Blue-winged Teals also have black tail feathers. The uniformity in tail color between the two species is a shared characteristic.
    However, it’s important to consider this feature in conjunction with other distinguishing traits to accurately identify each species.


  • Cinnamon Teal: Cinnamon Teals are often found in freshwater habitats such as ponds, marshes, and lakes. They prefer shallow waters with abundant aquatic vegetation, where they can engage in their characteristic dabbling behavior, feeding on plants and small aquatic invertebrates.
  • Blue-winged Teal: Blue-winged Teals inhabit wetlands, lakes, and shallow ponds. They are often found in areas with open water and dense emergent vegetation, which provides cover and suitable feeding grounds. Their habitat preference aligns with their dabbling behavior and foraging habits.


  • Cinnamon Teal: The range of the Cinnamon Teal extends across Western North and South America. They can be found from the western regions of North America down to parts of South America, inhabiting a diverse range of wetland environments along their migratory paths.
  • Blue-winged Teal: Blue-winged Teals have a broader distribution across the Americas. They can be found from North America to Central and South America. This wide range covers various habitats, including both temperate and tropical regions.


  • Cinnamon Teal: Cinnamon Teals exhibit varied migration patterns. While some populations migrate long distances, others are more sedentary and may not undertake extensive migrations. Their migratory behavior depends on factors such as food availability and climate conditions.
  • Blue-winged Teal: Blue-winged Teals are known for their migratory nature. They undertake substantial migrations, with North American populations traveling south for the winter. These migrations can cover considerable distances, making them a remarkable example of avian migratory behavior.


  • Cinnamon Teal: Cinnamon Teals emit a distinctive high-pitched whistling call. This call is often heard during their flights or when they’re in communication with other individuals. The sound is distinct and can contribute to their identification.
  • Blue-winged Teal: Blue-winged Teals produce a quacking sound similar to that of many duck species. Their calls are usually heard during courtship or when they’re interacting with other ducks. While not as distinctive as the Cinnamon Teal’s call, it serves as a recognizable feature.

Nesting Habits

  • Cinnamon Teal: Cinnamon Teals are known for nesting near water bodies. They often build their nests hidden among dense vegetation near the water’s edge, providing shelter and protection for their eggs and hatchlings. This nesting strategy helps shield them from potential predators.
  • Blue-winged Teal: Blue-winged Teals typically build their nests in grassy areas close to water sources. Their nests are well-concealed within the vegetation, offering safety and camouflage. This choice of nesting habitat aligns with their preference for wetland environments.


  • Cinnamon Teal: Cinnamon Teals are known for their dabbling behavior, where they feed primarily on aquatic plants, insects, and small invertebrates.
    They often tip forward in the water to reach submerged vegetation and prey. They are usually seen dabbling along the water’s edge or in shallow waters, foraging for their food.
  • Blue-winged Teal: Blue-winged Teals also exhibit dabbling behavior, feeding on aquatic plants, insects, and small crustaceans. However, they are more active foragers compared to some other dabbling ducks, and they are known to dive briefly to access food beneath the water’s surface.


  • Cinnamon Teal: Cinnamon Teals have a varied diet that includes aquatic plants, seeds, insects, and small invertebrates. They primarily feed by filtering food from the water using their specialized bills and by grazing on vegetation along the water’s edge.
  • Blue-winged Teal: Blue-winged Teals have a similar diet to Cinnamon Teals, consisting of aquatic plants, insects, and small crustaceans. Their foraging behavior involves both surface feeding and diving to access underwater food sources.

Mating Display

  • Cinnamon Teal: Male Cinnamon Teals engage in complex courtship displays during the breeding season. These displays often involve vigorous swimming, head bobbing, and vocalizations to attract females. Their distinctive plumage, including the warm face color, plays a role in courtship rituals.
  • Blue-winged Teal: Male Blue-winged Teals also perform courtship displays, although their displays are generally simpler compared to those of Cinnamon Teals. The iridescent blue wing patch on males is a key feature in their courtship, with displays involving raising and fluttering their wings to showcase this patch.

Migratory Patterns

  • Cinnamon Teal: Cinnamon Teal populations exhibit varied migratory patterns. While some individuals undertake long migrations, others remain more sedentary throughout the year. Factors such as food availability and local climate influence their migratory behaviors.
  • Blue-winged Teal: Blue-winged Teals are known for their extensive migratory journeys. North American populations undertake significant migrations south for the winter, often traveling long distances between their breeding and wintering grounds.

Conservation Status

  • Cinnamon Teal: Cinnamon Teals generally have stable populations and are not currently considered threatened. However, as with many bird species, their populations can be affected by habitat loss, pollution, and other environmental changes. Conservation efforts to protect their wetland habitats are important for their long-term survival.
  • Blue-winged Teal: Blue-winged Teals also have stable populations and are not currently classified as threatened. Their adaptable nature and wide distribution contribute to their relatively secure conservation status. However, ongoing habitat conservation is crucial to ensuring their continued well-being.

Cinnamon Teal Vs Blue Winged Teal: Comparison Table

FeatureCinnamon TealBlue-winged Teal
Face ColorWarm, reddish-brown (“cinnamon”)Cold, gray
White Spot Behind Bill (Nonbreeding)AbsentPresent
Wing Patch ColorCinnamon-brown or redBlue
Eye StripeWhiteAbsent
Bill ColorDark grayDark gray
Underside ColorBright chestnutPale
Breeding PlumageBright cinnamon with intricate patternsMottled browns with blue wing patch
Nonbreeding PlumageSimilar to females, but more mutedMottled browns with distinctive white wing stripe
SizeSlightly smaller than Blue-winged TealSlightly larger than Cinnamon Teal
Tail ColorBlackBlack
HabitatFreshwater ponds, marshes, and lakesWetlands, lakes, shallow ponds
RangeWestern North and South AmericaNorth, Central, and South America
MigrationSome migrate long distancesMigrate shorter distances
VoiceHigh, whistling callQuacking sound
Nesting HabitsNests near water, often hidden in vegetationNests in grassy areas near water
BehaviorOften seen dabbling at water’s edgeActive foragers, diving for food
DietAquatic plants, insects, small invertebratesAquatic plants, insects, small crustaceans
Mating DisplayComplex courtship ritualsSimpler courtship behaviors
Migratory PatternsMigrate across North AmericaMigrate across North and South America
Conservation StatusGenerally stable populationsGenerally stable populations

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Cinnamon Teals and Blue-winged Teals form mixed flocks during migration?

Yes, it’s possible to find Cinnamon Teals and Blue-winged Teals in mixed flocks during migration. Their similar behaviors and habitat preferences can lead to them congregating in the same wetland areas.

How do Cinnamon Teals protect their nests from predators?

Cinnamon Teals often build their nests hidden among dense vegetation near water. This strategy helps shield their nests from potential predators, and their cryptic coloration provides additional camouflage.

Can Blue-winged Teals be found in both freshwater and saltwater habitats?

Blue-winged Teals are primarily found in freshwater habitats such as wetlands, lakes, and ponds. While they usually prefer freshwater environments, they can occasionally be spotted in brackish water habitats, especially during migration.

How do the vocalizations of Cinnamon Teals and Blue-winged Teals differ during the breeding season?

During the breeding season, male Cinnamon Teals produce a series of whistling calls, while male Blue-winged Teals are known for their distinctive whistling “peep” call, which is often repeated rhythmically as part of their courtship displays.

Are there any specific threats to the conservation of Blue-winged Teals?

While Blue-winged Teals currently have stable populations, their habitats are susceptible to degradation due to factors like urban development and wetland loss. Ensuring the protection of these wetland areas is crucial to maintaining healthy Blue-winged Teal populations in the long term.

To Recap

In the rich tapestry of avian biodiversity, Cinnamon Teals and Blue-winged Teals stand as vivid threads, woven into the wetlands and waterways of the Americas.

Their distinct features, from plumage to behavior, contribute to the captivating mosaic of nature’s creations. As they forage, court, and migrate, these ducks leave their indelible mark on the ecosystems they inhabit.

While each species showcases its unique traits, their shared presence underscores the delicate balance of our environment.

Through observation, conservation, and appreciation, we ensure that the enchanting stories of Cinnamon Teals and Blue-winged Teals continue to grace the waters and skies for generations to come.

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