Teal Next Time!

Blue-winged teal research aims to shed light on migration timing, routes and habitat use throughout annual life cycle

By Dr. Dale James, Director of  Conservation Science and Planning and Dr. Lisa Webb, University of Missouri Associate Professor  

Blue-winged teal are among the most abundant, widespread, and frequently harvested waterfowl species in North America. They are also one of the earliest ducks to migrate south in the fall and the latest to arrive on the Prairies in the spring. Blue-winged teal are also unique in that the bulk of their population winters in Central and South America, although some can be found in the southern U. S. throughout winter. Despite their abundance and popularity, many uncertainties remain around their migration ecology, distribution and habitat use, particularly in the winter.

Ducks Unlimited has partnered with the Missouri Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit (USGS) at the University of Missouri, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries and the Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries Foundation to fund research to better understand these aspects of blue-winged teal ecology. University of Missouri Associate Professor Dr. Lisa Webb and graduate student, Brett Leach, are working in collaboration with Paul Link of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries to deploy >100 GPS-GSM (satellite) on female blue-winged teal captured in Louisiana and on breeding areas over the next 2-3 years. Transmitters will be programmed to collect a location (+15 m accuracy) every 1-4 hours throughout the life of the device. These location data will clarify habitat use and resource selection and along with behavioral information can inform questions dealing with timing of migration and movement events. Habitat selection will be evaluated throughout each life-history phases (migration, winter and nesting/molting) at multiple spatial scales, including local (i.e., within home-range) and longer relocation movements. Movements and habitat use will be compared between birds that survive the winter season and initiate spring migration with birds that are presumed dead or harvested.

Understanding migration ecology and habitat use of blue-winged teal during all parts of their life cycle will aid in their management by identifying important landscapes for this species especially during the non-breeding period, which can have substantial implications for future reproductive success and survival. Also, given the long-distance migration of blue-winged teal, this study may explain issues limiting habitats or movements occurring outside of North America. Ducks Unlimited utilizes research such as this to guide our habitat conservation programs.


Ducks Unlimited and our many conservation partners including the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) have tirelessly worked together to deliver wetland habitat in Louisiana and across the continent. While putting the habitat on the landscape is the most recognized facet of waterfowl management, it is also critical to acknowledge that science-based conservation provides the information necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of conservation programs and inform management decisions. Ducks Unlimited prides itself in being science-based. The investment in research collaborations with various universities and agencies not only provides information that improves our conservation programs and policies but also develops future waterfowl managers and conservationists.