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Understanding Waterfowl: The Blue-Winged Ducks

Northern shovelers and blue-winged and cinnamon teal are among the most closely related of North America's ducks
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Why are cinnamon teal not as abundant and widespread as their blue-winged cousins? The answer is not clear-cut, but because of similarities in body size, diets and habitat affinities between blue-winged and cinnamon teal, these species compete for many of the same resources where their ranges overlap. Competition can lead to aggression and because blue-winged teal are more dominant, these interactions appear to play a role in limiting the range expansion of cinnamon teal.

Waterfowl are a marvelously intriguing group of birds, inhabiting diverse habitats throughout the world. Knowledge of species relatedness is not only interesting in itself, but also helps scientists identify shared life histories and common—or different—resource needs among waterfowl. This information helps Ducks Unlimited and its conservation partners provide habitat for multiple species, or conversely, identify specific management actions to benefit particular species of concern. 
ID CHALLENGE The wings of blue-winged and cinnamon teal are so similar that it's virtually impossible for trained waterfowl biologists to tell them apart. If not for their slightly larger size and wider and lighter-colored feather quills, the wings of shovelers would be equally difficult to distinguish from those of their smaller cousins.



Based in Lafayette, Louisiana, Dr. Mike Brasher is biological team leader for the Gulf Coast Joint Venture.
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