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Blue-winged Teal


Blue-winged teal breed primarily in the northern prairies and parklands of central North America. Their relative abundance generally increases from west to east, and north to south within the Prairie Pothole Region. Breeding habitat includes wetland areas within grasslands, such as shallow marshes, sloughs, flooded ditches, and temporary ponds. Females change breeding sites from year to year in response to changing wetland conditions and lay an average of 10 eggs.


Latin: Spatula discors

Average length: M 16", F 14"

Average weight: M 1.0 lbs., F 0.8 lbs.


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. 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.

Blue-winged Teal Range Map

Food Habits

Blue-winged teal dabble to feed on 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.


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 some of the highest annual mortality rates among dabbling ducks, reaching up to 65% for some age and sex classes.

Blue Wing Teal Population

Migration 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).