Blue-winged Teal

Common Name:Blue-winged Teal

Class: Aves




Species:Anas discors

Photo: M. Noonan



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 duckís small size.  It is called the Blue-winged Teal because of a light blue patch on its forewings.  The Blue-winged Teal is a dichromatic species.  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.


During the breeding season the Blue-winged Teal can be found smaller bodies of water with grassland areas nearby including ponds and prairie potholes.  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. In the winter, the Blue-winged Teal can be found along the southern coastlines of the United States. It also winters in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and the northern portion of South America.

Photo: M. Noonan



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. 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 to protect their nest or young. The Blue-winged Teal forms monogamous pairs each year on the wintering grounds.  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 made with dried grass and downy feathers. The female will lay 6-14 cream colored eggs which will be incubated for about 24 days.  Once hatched, the brood leaves the nest with the female in the first twenty-four hours.  Females provide most of 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




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.


Photo: M. Noonan


Birds of Western New York is brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.