Blue-winged Teal

Hey guys welcome back. Today’s duck is the blue-winged teal. The second teal species we’ve covered. Teals are small dabbling ducks, about 2/3 the size of a mallard. Female blue-winged teals look like females of many ducks, sporting a mottled brown plumage. Males feature an elegant look; black back, brown and black spotted body, and a dark gray head with a white crescent in front of the eye. Their head also shows iridescent pinks and purples in good light. Both sexes also feature the namesake blue patch on the leading edge of the wing. This blue is hidden while the bird is at rest with its wings folded. Funny enough they have a green speculum like their green-winged cousins.

Female blue-winged teal. St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis, MO

Blue-winged teals have fairly long bills relative to their size. It was this feature that stood out the first time I saw them. I was stalking the mudflats at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens when I saw a group of ducks. They were completely backlit so I couldn’t tell coloration right away. They looked different though. It was something about their silhouette. I realized it was their bills. After being able to get better light, I was able to determine they were blue-winged teals! When I moved to St. Louis I got to see some much closer, and thanks to the native waterfowl aviary at the St. Louis Zoo, was able to snap some good closeups too.

Blue-winged teal couple. Forest Park, St. Louis, MO

They’re pretty common here in Ohio as well. Blue-winged teals prefer marshes and wetlands as opposed to deeper lakes and ponds. I saw quite a few last spring at the nearby Mentor Lagoons. Blue-winged teals typically migrate earlier than other species, and thus typically arrive earlier in spring on their breeding grounds, and leave earlier in fall. They winter in the Gulf Coast region of the US and throughout Mexico and Central America and breed throughout much of the continental US and Canada. They are definitely sharp-looking little birds. Moving away from the water, next up we’ll look at the yellow-bellied flycatcher. See you then!

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