At a Glance
Our smallest dabbling duck. Very common and widespread, remaining through the winter farther north than other teal. Often rests out of the water, even standing on low snags or branches. Flocks in flight appear very fast because of small size, with rapid twisting and turning in unison. Typically travels in small flocks, but in winter or at migration stopovers, may gather in concentrations of thousands.
All bird guide text and rangemaps adapted from Lives of North American Birds by Kenn Kaufman© 1996, used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Duck-like Birds, Surface Feeding Ducks
Coasts and Shorelines, Fields, Meadows, and Grasslands, Freshwater Wetlands, Lakes, Ponds, and Rivers, Saltwater Wetlands, Tundra and Boreal Habitats
Alaska and The North, California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Range & Identification
Migration & Range Maps
After breeding, adults may go through annual molt near nesting area or may move hundreds of miles in late summer before going through flightless stage of molt. Main fall migration much later, mostly October to early December. Females may move somewhat farther south than males, on average. Spring migration begins early, with mated pairs often traveling north together. The race of Green-wings on Aleutian Islands, Alaska, is mostly non-migratory. American Green-wings regularly stray to Europe, and Eurasian Green-wings occur annually in North America.
12-16" (30-41 cm). Male has chestnut head with green ear patch, white bar on side of chest, yellow "tail-light." Female known by small size, strong eyeline, gray bill. "Eurasian" Green-wing is resident on islands of western Alaska, also rare winter visitor in northwest and northeast; male has white back stripe, lacks white chest bar. Female not safely identified.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Robin
Brown, Gray, Green, Red, White, Yellow
Rounded, Short, Wedge-shaped
Songs and Calls
Clear repeated whistle. Females quack.
Croak/Quack, Rattle, Whistle
Marshes, rivers, bays. In summer, open country near shallow freshwater lakes and marshes. In migration and winter, found on coastal estuaries and tidal marshes, also on shallow lakes and ponds inland, seeming to prefer those with much standing or floating vegetation.
Sign up for Audubon's newsletter to learn more about birds like the Green-winged Teal
6-11, rarely up to 15 or 18. Cream to pale buff. Incubation is by female only, 20-24 days, usually 21. Young: leave nest a few hours after hatching. Female cares for ducklings, which may return to the nest for the first few nights; young find all their own food. Young fledge at about 35 days.
leave nest a few hours after hatching. Female cares for ducklings, which may return to the nest for the first few nights; young find all their own food. Young fledge at about 35 days.
Forages by wading or swimming in very shallow water while filtering mud with bill, up-ending, or picking items from water's surface. May feed by night or day.
Mostly plant material. Diet quite variable with season and location. Feeds especially on seeds of grasses, sedges, pondweeds, many others. Also takes aquatic insects, crustaceans, mollusks, tadpoles; rarely earthworms, fish eggs. May feed more on animal matter in summer, seeds in winter.
Pairs usually arrive already mated on breeding grounds. In one courtship display, male rears up out of water, arching head forward and downward to shake bill very rapidly in water while giving a sharp whistle. Nest site is usually among grasses and weeds of meadow, sometimes in open woodland or brush, within 200' of water. Well hidden by surrounding grasses or shrubs, which often form complete canopy. Nest (built by female) is a shallow depression filled with grasses, twigs, and leaves, lined with down.
Very common and widespread.
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Green-winged Teal. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.
Climate Threats Facing the Green-winged Teal
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.