Blue-Winged Teal

Anas discors

blue-winged_teal_male_2-20-15.jpg

Photo of a male blue-winged teal floating on water.
The adult male blue-winged teal is a small duck with a dark gray head and a white crescent on the face between bill and eye.
Jim Rathert
Family

Anatidae (ducks, geese, swans) in the order Anseriformes

Description

Adult male is small with a dark gray head with a white crescent, a light blue patch on the forewing, and a greenish speculum (wing patch). Female is brown with yellow legs, a dark eye line, and a whitish spot between the bill and the eye. The female’s blue wing patches, gray-brown speculum, and undertail coverts that are darker and heavily spotted separate it from the female green-winged teal, which lacks the blue wing patch, has a green speculum, lacks the white between bill and eye, and has whitish undertail coverts. Males make high peeps, females high-pitched quacks.

Similar species: The cinnamon teal is a rare (west) or casual (east) migrant and accidental winter resident in Missouri. Males are almost entirely cinnamon colored. Females are browner than female blue-winged teal and lack the dark eye line and white spot between bill and eye.

Key Identifiers

 

  • pale blue shoulder patch
  • small size
Size

Length: 16 inches (tip of bill to tip of tail).

blue-winged_teal_male_closeup_2-20-15.jpg

Photo of a male blue-winged teal closeup of head.
Blue-Winged Teal Male
Male blue-winged teal have a distinctive white crescent on their dark gray heads.

blue-winged_teal_male_swimming_2-20-15.jpg

Photo of a male blue-winged teal.
Blue-Winged Teal Male
Blue-winged teal are dabblers, often seen in shallows sifting water and mud for goodies, rarely diving underwater.

blue-winged_teal_female_2_2-20-15.jpg

Photo of a female blue-winged teal floating on water.
Blue-Winged Teal Female
Female blue-winged teal have a prominent dark eye line, a broken white eye ring, and a white spot between bill and eye.

blue-winged_teal_female_3_2-20-15.jpg

Photo of a female blue-winged teal floating on water with a few other ducks.
Blue-Winged Teal Female
The female blue-winged teal has dark, heavily spotted undertail coverts. This trait helps distinguish them from female green-winged teal.

blue-winged_teal_female_2-20-15.jpg

Photo of a female blue-winged teal floating in shallow water among cattails.
Blue-Winged Teal Female
Blue-winged teal sometimes breed in Missouri. Hens alone provide parental care.

pa09-2012.jpg

Blue-Winged Teal
Blue-Winged Teal

blue_winged_teal_11-10-11.jpg

Image of blue-winged teal
Blue-Winged Teal
Blue-winged teal

FG-0068_Teal_Blue-winged.mp4

Video of blue-winged teal in the wild.
Habitat and conservation

These ducks are commonly seen on marshes, and in ponds and lakes especially in open country. Like other dabbling ducks, this species generally hops into the air directly from the water, without needing a running, flapping start. The blue-winged teal is a swift flyer. This species regularly breeds in Missouri. State and federal game laws regulate harvests to maintain healthy populations.

Foods

Blue-winged teal, like other dabbling ducks, are usually seen foraging on vegetation such as sedges, seeds, and small invertebrates on the surface in shallow water with emergent vegetation. They rarely dive underwater.

image of Blue-Winged Teal Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide at marshes, ponds, and lakes.

Status

Common migrant; locally uncommon summer resident in marshes. They are relatively early migrants and most of them are usually far south of Missouri by the time regular waterfall hunting season opens.

Life cycle

Hens alone provide parental care; nests, concealed by overarching vegetation, are built on dry ground near water; 10–13 eggs are laid; these hatch in about 24 days. The ducklings take immediately to water. This species leaves early to overwinter along the Gulf of Mexico, in parts of southern California, and in Texas; many fly as far south as Peru, Brazil, and Argentina. They arrive relatively late in spring and breed across much of the United States and Canada as far north as Alaska.

Human connections

Blue-winged teal are a popular quarry of duck hunters.

Ecosystem connections

Teal, at various stages of their life cycle and throughout their migrating range, provide food for a variety of predators. In turn, these ducks busily graze upon aquatic plants and invertebrates, helping to hold those populations in check.