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Facts About the Blue-winged Teal Duck

Tanaya Navalkar
Blue-winged teal ducks are the most charming creatures in the world. They are one of the smallest dabbling ducks, which are mostly found in North America. Let's find out some facts about these dabblers.

Quack Facts!

  • The male duck is called drake, while females are called hen or simply duck.
  • The blue-winged teal was the second most populous duck in the United States in 2005.
The blue-winged teal duck is a small, brown dabbling duck. This species gets its name from the prominent and striking blue patch on its upper wing, which is visible during flight. However, it can be a bit difficult to differentiate between the cinnamon teal and blue-winged teal because they both look identical during fall. However, when spring starts approaching, both acquire different breeding feathers. The fast and erratic flying pattern of the blue-winged teal makes it challenging for waterfowlers to hunt them down.
Binomial name: Anas discors
Class: Aves
Family: Anatidae
Size: 14" - 16" (36 cm - 41 cm)
Weight: 8.1 oz. - 19.2 oz. (230 - 545 g)
Wingspan: 22" - 24.4" (56 - 62 cm)
Lifespan: 10 - 17 years
Color: Gray, grayish-blue, white

How Do They Appear?

  • The blue-winged teal is around 40 cm in length.
  • The adult male has a grayish-blue head, a white crescent in front of its eyes, and a light brown body. The upper wing is blue-gray in color.
  • The adult female is mottled brown in color. It has a brownish-gray head, whitish patch at the base of the bill, and white patches around the eyes. The upper wing is dull blue as compared to the male counterparts.
  • The juveniles are similar to adult females.
  • They have webbed feet that make it easier for them to maneuver in water.
  • They often fall prey to red foxes and raptors.

What is Their Behavior Like?

  • Blue-winged teals are fast and eccentric flyers. They fly in small flocks and can be seen twisting and turning as a single unit.
  • They usually dwell on rocks and logs on the water surface.
  • The only time when they will dive in water is when threatened or attacked by a predator

What Sounds Do They Make?

  • They are more vocal than most of the other ducks.
  • The sound of the drake is like a whistle, which is made in both water and during flight.
  • Females have a high-pitched quack specially during the breeding season to communicate with their mates and young ones.

Where Are They Found?

  • Blue-winged teals usually inhabit shallow water bodies like ponds, lakes, and marshy areas during the summer season.
  • During the spring and summer season, they are usually found in Canada, Alaska, and other regions of North America.
  • They migrate to southern parts of the United States like Carolina, Texas, and Southern California and go as far as Southern America when winter starts approaching.

What Do They Eat?

  • When searching for food, they often stick to shallow water, plucking the grass from the surface with their heads partially submerged in water. They don't feed out of the water.
  • They usually feed on insects and other aquatic plants that are found on the surface of water.
  • They also eat invertebrates such as mollusks, midge larvae, and crustaceans in shallow wetlands.
  • In winters, they tend to feed on millets, water lilies, corn, and rice.

Where Do They Migrate?

  • Blue-winged teals migrate between winters and the breeding season every year.
  • They are often seen flocking in large numbers over long distances as far as Brazil and Argentina in South America during winters. Here, they can be found in mangrove swamps, lagoons, and shallow wetlands.
  • These teals are one of the first duck species to migrate every fall, and the last to do so in spring.
  • In the United States, the highest number of blue-winged teals are seen in Texas and Florida.

What About Their Breeding and Nesting?

  • The blue-wings usually commence pairing during fall, just before the onset of winter before migrating.
  • They are more active than other ducks during the breeding season.
  • They nest on the grounds near wetlands, ponds, ditches, and meadows.
  • After arrival, the female selects a territory at the breeding areas, which is guarded by the drakes.
  • The female builds the nest that is made of dried grass just before laying the first egg. It lays about 6 - 12 eggs that are whitish in color.
  • They hatch in about 24 days after incubation.
  • The ducklings then soon leave their nests after hatching within 12 - 24 hours and can walk up to the wetlands. However, it takes about 6 - 8 weeks before they can fly.
  • The females stay with their offspring till the time they are old enough to fly.
  • The males leave the breeding ground before the females as they become flightless for a period of about 3 - 4 weeks, and move to a suitable vegetation.
The North American Waterfowl Management Plan was introduced in 1986 to conserve waterfowl and migratory birds in North America. Moreover, the US Department of Agriculture's Conservation Reserve Program has also converted 1.8 million acres of land into a breeding habitat because of which these ducks can now be seen in abundance.