Photo: Scott Kinsey/Great Backyard Bird Count Participant

Blue-winged Teal

Anas discors

Teal are small ducks, fast in flight, flocks twisting and turning in unison. Seemingly a warm-weather duck, the Blue-winged Teal is largely absent from most of North America in the cold months, and winters more extensively in South America than any of our other dabblers. Small groups of Blue-wings often are seen standing on stumps or rocks at the water's edge.
Conservation status Populations apparently stable. Most Blue-wings winter south of the U.S., so management requires cooperation with Latin American nations.
Family Ducks and Geese
Habitat Fresh ponds, marshes. In summer on shallow freshwater marshes and ponds in open country, also brackish marshes near coast. In migration and winter on any kind of shallow waters, inland or coastal. Flocks in migration are sometimes seen over ocean, many miles offshore.
Teal are small ducks, fast in flight, flocks twisting and turning in unison. Seemingly a warm-weather duck, the Blue-winged Teal is largely absent from most of North America in the cold months, and winters more extensively in South America than any of our other dabblers. Small groups of Blue-wings often are seen standing on stumps or rocks at the water's edge.
Photo Gallery
Feeding Behavior

Forages in very shallow water, gleaning items from surface or swimming forward with head partly submerged; seldom up-ends, and seldom feeds away from water.


Eggs

9-13, sometimes 6-15. Dull white or tinged olive. Ring-necked Pheasants sometimes lay eggs in Blue-winged Teal nests. Incubation is by female only, 23-24 days. Young: leave nest within 24 hours after hatching. Young find their own food, are tended by female for first few weeks, but broods of young often left alone before old enough to fly. Young capable of flight 38-49 days after hatching.


Young

leave nest within 24 hours after hatching. Young find their own food, are tended by female for first few weeks, but broods of young often left alone before old enough to fly. Young capable of flight 38-49 days after hatching.

Diet

Mainly seeds. Diet is mostly plant material, especially seeds of various grasses, sedges, pondweeds, smartweeds, and others. Snails, bivalves, insects, crustaceans, and other animal matter may be important in the diet at some seasons.


Nesting

Pair formation begins in early winter and continues during spring migration. Male has varied courtship displays, including one in which whole forepart of body is submerged, tail raised, feet waved in air. Nest site is on ground in prairie, hayfield, coastal meadow, sometimes several hundred yards from nearest water. Nest is a shallow depression with some grass or weeds added, lined with down; usually well concealed by surrounding vegetation.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Migration

Compared to most ducks, migrates relatively late in spring and early in fall. Migrates in flocks in fall, often in smaller flocks or isolated pairs in spring. Some southbound groups in fall are composed entirely of young birds, indicating that migratory route is instinctive, not learned. Blue-wings wintering in South America evidently migrate long distances over open ocean; flocks are sometimes seen many miles offshore.

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Migration

Compared to most ducks, migrates relatively late in spring and early in fall. Migrates in flocks in fall, often in smaller flocks or isolated pairs in spring. Some southbound groups in fall are composed entirely of young birds, indicating that migratory route is instinctive, not learned. Blue-wings wintering in South America evidently migrate long distances over open ocean; flocks are sometimes seen many miles offshore.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Soft lisping or peeping note. Female utters a soft quack.