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
  • adult (breeding)
  • adult female
  • adult male
  • adult male, breeding
  • juvenile
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.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

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

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.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Duck-like Birds Surface Feeding Ducks

Blue-winged Teal

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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