Blue-winged teal are the second smallest duck in North America and are highly distinctive during flight due to their bright blue wing patch. Populations are highly responsive to wetland conditions in their breeding range; those years with many small temporary wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region typically produce large hatches of this species.
These long-distance migrants breed as far north as Alaska and throughout Canada, primarily nesting in the prairies of the central U.S. and Canada. Blue-winged teal are not able to endure the cold weather and are some of the first to migrate south in the fall and the last to head back north in the spring. Although some spend winter along coastal areas of the southern U.S., most migrate to Mexico or South America. Blue-winged teal are found in all four flyways, but they are most abundant in the Central and Mississippi flyways. An exception is the southern Atlantic flyway, where they can be abundant during winter, especially in Florida.
The blue-winged teal prefers small wetlands and shallow areas with mudflats during fall migration. Blue-winged teal are commonly found in very shallow water sifting for invertebrates. During their fall migration and winter, they can be found on almost any shallow water body, including flooded crop fields and coastal marshes. Management for blue-winged teal is limited on most national wildlife refuges due to their early and late migration dates which fall outside of the optimal flooding and dewatering dates for many managed wetlands in the Southeast. However, impoundments managed for fall-migrating shorebirds also provide perfect habitat conditions for teal and are an excellent example of multi-species management strategies.
Their food choice includes primarily invertebrates, but they will also consume vegetable matter, seeds, pondweeds, and waste grain. In rice-producing regions, blue-winged teal commonly forage in shallow rice fields for waste grain and invertebrates. They primarily consume snails, tadpoles, and aquatic insects during breeding season.
How you can help
You can help this species and other waterfowl by purchasing a Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp. The Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp is a nonprofit organization that supports promotion, preservation, sales, and better understanding of the Federal Duck Stamp’s conservation mission.
Subject matter expert
- Heath Hagy, Waterfowl Ecologist, email@example.com
Federal Register notices
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