Blue-winged Teal

Common Name: Blue-winged Teal

Class:  Aves

Order: Anseriformes

Family: Anatidae

Genus: Anas

Species: Anas discors

 

 

 

Taxonomy/Description

 

The Blue-winged Teal is in the family Anatidae.  This family is made up of ducks and duck-like waterfowl.  The members of this family share adaptations to life on the water including webbed feet, flattened bills, and feathers with special oils to prevent water absorption.  The word teal is thought to have originated from the medieval English word, tele, which means small.  This refers to the duck’s small size.  It is called the Blue-winged Teal because of a light blue patch on its forewings.  Its genus, Anas, means duck and its species, discors, is based on the Latin for discourse referring to the sound the animal makes.  The Blue-winged Teal is a dimorphic species.  This means that the male and female differ in their coloration.  The male has a grayish blue head with a crescent shaped white mark near its bill.  It has a light brown, speckled body, and a black tail.  The female Blue-winged Teal is mottled brown with a white patch near its bill.  Both the male and female Blue-winged Teal have a light blue patch on their forewings, a black bill, and a green speculum.

 

Habitat/Diet

 

The Blue-winged Teal can be found in lakes, ponds, and marshes.  While nesting, it is usually found in smaller bodies of water with grassland areas nearby including ponds and prairie potholes.  In the winter, the Blue-winged Teal can be found along the southern coastlines of the United States.  On the Atlantic Coast, this includes areas from the Carolinas southward.  On the Pacific Coast, this includes areas from California southward.  It also winters in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and the northern portion of South America. 

 

During the breeding season, the Blue-winged Teal can be found from southeastern Alaska to the Atlantic, throughout the Great Lakes, and in the Great Plains as far south as Texas.  The diet of the Blue-winged Teal includes a variety of different foods such as aquatic invertebrates, seeds, and aquatic plants.

 

Behavior/Reproduction

 

The Blue-winged Teal is a dabbling duck.  This means that it feeds by inverting its body on the surface of the water instead of diving.  It is also agile on land and in the air.  The Blue-winged Teal is a social bird except when territories are established during the breeding season.  It is also aggressive throughout the year, with aggression increasing during pair formation and in the breeding season. 

The Red fox, Peregrine Falcon, Northern Harrier, Great Horned Owl, and occasionally the Bald Eagle prey upon the duck.  The Striped Skunk, Coyote, American Crow, and Black-billed Magpie also take eggs.  In response to a predator, the Blue-winged Teal will dive into the water or feign injury.  The Blue-winged Teal forms monogamous pairs each year on the wintering grounds.  While forced extra-pair copulation does occur, it is less frequent than in other dabbling ducks.  When a pair arrives to the breeding ground, it quickly establishes a territory and is very defensive of it.  The female Blue-winged Teal will select the nesting area with the male nearby.  Only the female will build the nest.  The nest is a bowl-shaped hole about 5.5 centimeters deep.  It is filled with dried grasses and down.  The female will lay six to fourteen cream colored eggs.  The eggs are incubated for about twenty-four days.  Once hatched the brood leaves the nest with the female in the first twenty-four hours.  Females provide the parental care, but in some early-hatched broods, the male will stay with the hatchlings and the hen for several weeks.  The female attends to early-hatched broods until they can fly, but late-hatched broods are abandoned after three to four weeks. 

 

Where to find them in WNY

 

The Blue-winged Teal can be found in WNY during the breeding season, as well as during spring and fall migration.  Look for them in small ponds with grassy areas nearby in the breeding season.  In the spring and fall migration, they can be found in any body of water, including the marshes of Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.

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