Hey guys, welcome back! We’ve reached our first teal! Teal is not just a blue-green color, teals are also a group of small ducks. The U.S. had three species of teal, Green-winged, Blue-winged, and Cinnamon. Despite them all being teals, they don’t really look much alike, though they do share one quality; they’re small. The Green-winged Teal is the smallest dabbling duck out there! You can kind of tell in the picture above just how noticeably smaller they are than the Mallard. There are 3 regional populations of Green-winged Teal; the American, the Eurasian (formerly considered two species), and a population on Alaska’s Aleutian Islands that don’t migrate. Males are sharp looking birds, sporting a rich brown, almost cinnamon colored head with an iridescent green “crescent” from their eyes to the back of their heads. My friend Julie, whom I used to work with in Central Park, liked to name some of the ducks that visited. That dapper teal pictured above was given the name Gavin Tealy! Females look kind of like any female duck; mottled brown. Both males and females feature a bright green wing stripe, or speculum, which gives them away.
Despite NYC being within the Green-winged Teal’s wintering range, Central Park never saw too many of them while I worked there. We’d get one, maybe two a year. The first one I ever saw was pointed out to me by another birder on the Harlem Meer, in the north end of the Park. It was a female. I found one the following winter, possibly the same bird. The next year, I finally saw a drake, Mr. Tealy up there. I can tell you until I’m blue in the face how small they are, but until you see one, you won’t really comprehend just how small. Funny how we all sort of picture ducks to be, well, “duck-sized.” Mallards are so common that we all just instinctively compare all other ducks to them, whether we know it or not.
Size was the most Identifying feature for me when I did see that first one solo. I thought, “what is that? It looks like a miniature female mallard! Must be a teal!” It happened to be pouring rain that day, but I was able to see the bird preening, and caught a glimpse of the green speculum to verify my sighting. Unfortunately for you guys, I haven’t seen a Green-winged Teal since I got my camera, so that’s why today’s post is lacking in the high quality photos. Oh well, we’ll rectify that with our next post when we look at another small duck, this time a diving duck; the Bufflehead! See you all then!