Green-winged Teal: Waterfowl Wednesday

Today is our last Waterfowl Wednesday for the winter season. But don’t worry! Our new feature, Migration Monday, will begin next week. Migration Monday will feature birds who are arriving in my area for spring migration.

For our final Waterfowl Wednesday I chose a duck that be considered a crossover between our winter and spring features. This duck is a winter visitor in my area, but is getting ready to migrate back to its breeding ground. It’s the Green-winged Teal.

Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca)

Description:

Green-winged Teals are the smallest North American dabbling duck. They have blocky, short bodies/necks/bills and large heads. Males have grayish bodies that feature a white,  vertical shoulder stripe, cinnamon-colored heads, and a pinkish breast. They have green ear patches and a custard-colored patch below its tail. Females are brown with a yellowish-streak along their tails. Both males and females have short, grayish-black bills and green speculum feathers. A speculum is a small panel of feathers on a duck’s wing that is a contrasting color from the rest of its wing. Sometimes the speculum may only be visible during flight.

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Female and male Green-winged Teals. Note the green speculums on their wings (Image by Ed Konrad via birdsofseabrookisland.org)

Range:

Breeding: Canada and the Northern United States. Winter: Southern United States and the Coasts. Migration: throughout the Midwest. Resident of parts of the Northwest.

Habitat:

Marshes, lakes, bays, and ponds

Food: Mainly aquatic invertebrates and seeds. May also eat worms, plants, crustaceans, and tadpoles. Green-winged Teals are dabblers, but may sometimes dive for food or to escape a predator.

Nesting/Breeding:

Large groups of males (up to 25) will attempt to court a female with elaborate vocal displays and movements both on water and in flight. In one display the male rears out of the water, sticks his head forward,  and rapidly shakes his bill in the water while making loud whistling sounds. By the time Green-winged Teals arrive at their breeding ground they have already mated. New pairs are formed each year. After a females chooses a mate, the male will fight off other suitors. Females create nest near the water by digging out a nest bowl with her feet. She lines it with grass and other materials once she lays her first egg. After laying her last egg she will cover her eggs with down. Average clutch size is 6-11 eggs, which she incubates for 20-24 days. Once incubation begins the male abandons her. When the chicks hatch they are able to swim, dabble for food, and walk right away. The mother will protect them and brood them at night. The chick will fledge in about 35 days.

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Green-winged Teal males displaying for courtship (Image by Larry Jordan via TheBirdersReport.com)

Sounds:

Females quack, and males will make whistling sounds during courtship

Fun Facts:

  • Green-winged Teals breed farther North than any other American teals.
  • They are one of the swiftest fliers among duck species. They can quickly maneuver their way around in small groups in unison by twisting and turning throughout their flight.
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Green-winged Teals in flight (Image via cabelas.com)
  • Mating pairs are usually formed on wintering grounds. Once a pair forms a bond, the male will follow the female to her former breeding grounds. However, since Green-winged Teals for new pairs each year, males will not necessarily return to the wintering site to find females the following year.
  • Like the Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teals have lamellae, which are small comb-like projections on the edge of their bills that help them filter food from the water.
  • The Eurasian form of the Green-winged Teal has a horizontal white shoulder stripe, as opposed to the North America’s vertical shoulder stripe. There is also a subspecies called Anas creeca nimia that lives on the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. This subspecies does not migrate like other Green-winged Teals. Instead they travel from their summer sites to their winter sites, which are the beaches on the islands.

Well, we only have 3 more days of Winter, so enjoy them. Starting on Sunday will have finally made it to Spring!

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Author: BirdNation

I am an avid birder, teacher, and nature lover. I primarily birdwatch throughout New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania.

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