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Blue-winged Teal, male
© Jeff Foott

Duck-like Birds

Blue-winged Teal  Anas discors

Family: Ducks and Geese, Anatidae

Audio: Martyn Stewart, ©

An estimated 15% of the species' North American population breeds within the Boreal Forest.

Description  14-16" (36-41 cm). A small brown duck with pale blue shoulder patches. Male has gray head and white crescent in front of eye. Female mottled brown, similar to female Cinnamon Teal but with obscure patterning on face and to female Green-winged, but grayer and larger billed, with pale blue shoulder patches like the male.

Habitat  Marshes, shallow ponds, and lakes.

Nesting  9-12 dull white eggs in a down-lined hollow concealed in grass near water.

Voice  Soft lisping or peeping note. Female utters a soft quack.

Range  Breeds from southeastern Alaska and western Canada to Canadian Maritimes and south to northeastern California, New Mexico, and New York. Winters from southern California, southern Texas, and Carolinas southward through tropical America.

Discussion  Fast and wary, Blue-winged Teal fly in small groups or flocks, turning in unison and flashing the blue area of the wing. They arrive latest of all ducks at their breeding grounds and leave early in the fall. On low, marshy prairies in the central part of the continent, where this duck is most numerous, virtually every pond and pothole has a breeding pair. The male commonly "stands guard" on the pond while the female is incubating. Unlike other dabbling ducks that form pairs in the fall, this teal begins courting in the spring and often does not acquire the familiar breeding plumage until December or January. Like most ducks, it goes through an eclipse plumage and molts most of its feathers simultaneously, including the primaries, and so is flightless until new feathers grow in.

Banner photo credit: CPAWS Wildlands League