Blue Winged Teal
Blue winged Teal are among the smallest of the dabbling ducks having size of 40 cm (14-16 in) long, with a wingspan of 58 cm (22-24 in), and a weight of 370 g (13 oz). Blue-winged teal are our least hardy waterfowl, often not arriving until May and sometimes departing in August. They are very rare in the winter. Female blue-winged teal have a brownish-gray head with a darker crown and eye stripe. The breast and sides are brown, the upper parts are olive brown, and the upper wing coverts are bluish, but less vibrant than the drake. The bill is gray-black and the legs and feet are dull yellow-brown. The female has a high-pitched squeak whereas the Male blue-winged teal have a slate gray head and neck, a black-edged white crescent in front of the eyes and a blackish crown. The breast and sides are tan with dark brown speckles and there is a white spot on the side of the rump. Most of the upper wing coverts are blue-gray, the secondaries form an iridescent green speculum and the underwing is whitish. The bill is black and the legs and feet are yellowish to orange. The male has a thin whistled “tsee tsee” uttered both in flight and when on water.
The blue winged teal breeds across most of North America, with the exception of the Arctic areas of Canada, the southwest, the southeast, and the Appalachian region. It winters in the southern United States from the southern Atlantic states and the Gulf states west to Southern California.
Migrating and Wintering :
Blue-winged teal are generally the first ducks south in the fall and the last north in the spring. They migrate from the Prairie Pothole Region to wintering areas in Florida, the Caribbean Islands, the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana, Mexico and Central and South America. Wintering habitats are diverse, including mangrove swamps, fresh and brackish estuaries and shallow wetlands. In the United States, the highest winter densities occur in southern Texas and peninsular Florida. Blue-winged teal are common in winter from Central America, the Caribbean and South America south to Peru and northeastern Brazil. They also stay regularly in small numbers in the Galapagos Islands and are vagrants to Chile, southeastern Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina (Scott and Carbonell, 1986).
Blue-winged Teal is often found in flocks of up to 30-40 birds, mixed with other dabbling ducks and other species, feeding in shallow lagoons. Pairs and small groups dabble and up-end to reach submerged vegetation. You’ll often find Blue-winged Teal with other species of dabbling ducks. They are often around the edges of ponds under vegetation, choosing a concealed spot to forage or rest.
Blue Winged Teal feed by dabbling in shallow water at the edge of marshes or open water. They mainly eat plants their diet may include molluscs and the vegetative parts of aquatic plants (algae, duckweeds, pondweeds, etc.), seeds (sedges, pondweeds, grasses, etc.) and large amounts of aquatic invertebrates found in shallowly flooded wetlands. During migrations, they feed mainly on seeds.
The female builds the nest by scraping with her feet to make a circular depression. She then lines it with dried grasses picked from around the nest, adding down and breast feathers. Vegetation conceals most nests on all sides and from above. The finished nest is about 8 inches across, with an inside diameter of about 6 inches and 2 inches deep.
Nest Placement :
Females decide where to nest by flying over possible areas, landing in an opening, and then walking into grassy cover. She may take several days to decide on the site. Males wait nearby. Nests are typically at least a foot above the nearest water and covered by vegetation.
Breeding season starts in May. Male and female pairs form in the winter and continue through spring migration. The female lays 6-14 olive-white or creamy eggs in a shallow depression on the ground or in a grassy area near the water. The nest is lined with grasses and down and is usually well hidden by vegetation. The male guards the nest while the female is incubating the eggs. The chicks hatch in 23-27 days. The chicks are sepia-brown with yellow spots above, whereas the underparts and head sides are pale yellow. We can see a dark eye line extending to the ear coverts. Bill and legs are dark grey. The chicks are precocial and leave the nest shortly after hatching and swim and find food on their own within a day. The female stays with the chicks for a few weeks but leaves before they can fly. The chicks fledge when they are 35-44 days old.
Blue-winged Teal often flies in small groups, undulating and turning together in the same movement. The flight is fast and agile. While flying, we can see the blue speculum on the wing, making the bird unmistakable.
Blue-winged Teal suffers large mortality during the migrations, due to the very long flights over water to reach South America. Changes in the habitat with drainage of wet areas and extension of agriculture are the main causes of populations’ declines. Nests are parasitized by various ducks’ species. Eggs are eaten by several predators such as crows and small mammals.
Since 1955, blue-winged teal populations have ranged from 2.8 million to 7.4 million. Generally, numbers have increased in recent years, due to favorable prairie wetland conditions. This has resulted in an average population of 6 million during the past 10 years (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2009). Blue-winged teal have the highest annual mortality rate (reaching 65 percent) of all the dabbling ducks, possibly as a result of hunting and long over-ocean migration.
Teal, at various stages of their life cycle and throughout their migrating range, provide food for a variety of predators. In turn, these ducks busily graze upon aquatic plants and invertebrates, helping to hold those populations in check.
Blue Winged Teal male
Blue Winged Teal female
Topic: Blue Winged Teal