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The Beautiful Blue-Winged Teal

Updated on April 7, 2015
Male Blue-Winged Teal
Male Blue-Winged Teal | Source

An Introduction

One of the smallest ducks in North America travels such great distance between breeding and wintering grounds, as much as 7,000 miles.

In 1840, John James Audubon said that the flight of these birds was extremely rapid, and he felt that they pass through the air as quickly as a passenger pigeon.

In 1899, Dr. Yorke wrote that they travel at approximately 130 mph, exceeded only by the Green-Winged Teal.

These birds have a fast take-off from the water and fly rapidly, often turning and twisting in small compact flocks. The Blue-Winged Teal is a fast duck, but its reputation has always flown much faster than the bird itself.

Male Blue-Winged Teal with two females
Male Blue-Winged Teal with two females | Source

When Nature Calls...

These ducks are generally silent, but while in flight, they may twitter. I have heard a quiet quack from the female and the male whistle-peeps.

These are one of the last ducks to leave the south and show up on the breeding grounds. By the time they are ready to breed, they are already paired due to their lateness in arrival. They will perform their courtship rituals while they migrate northward. The ritual takes place both on the water and in flight. The flight is more of a pursuit than a courtship and most generally involves three ducks: one female and two males. This is a flight of agility and great stamina, where these ducks will twist and turn like acrobats on the trapeze, which makes them so famous.

On the water, the female can be the instigator by emitting a quiet, “errrrrr,” call. The interested male will then do a chin-raising and perhaps a soft whistle, while either swimming with her or toward her. Then he will up-end himself to feed, showing her his brightly colored legs, and with birds, color is very important. Then they will give each other head bobs before they mate.

Source

Nesting

Nests are difficult to find, as they have roofs, under a clump of grass. The female selects the location and incubates, and the male will abandon her then. Incubation is roughly three weeks, and when she seeks food, the female will cover her eggs with down and grass. The reason is twofold: she is keeping them warm and hiding them from the wrong eyes. The young won’t leave the nest for a day to a day and a half, due to the reserves that they were born with. When they do leave, they will grab at tiny insects that are slow enough and are attracted by shiny objects. They soon learn what they can and can’t eat. The young resemble the female, as does the male before he acquires his breeding plumage.

The ducklings fledge in about 6 weeks. This teal has a normal flight speed of 50 mph, but that can increase or decrease due to winds for and against them. Speeds are obtained by clocking them with a car, or if a naturalist is sophisticated enough now, there is radar. Although the Blue-Winged Teal is fast, it cannot hold a candle to a Northern Pintail, a Mallard or a Canvasback. They are heavier and stronger.

Blue-winged Teal Pair
Blue-winged Teal Pair | Source

Diet and Predators

For migration, the blue wings travel north around March 1, returns south around the end of August, and the trip could take a couple of months.

These ducks prefer fresh water over salt, and favor smaller bodies of water like lagoons and smaller lakes, as protection is afforded by marsh grasses. They don’t appear to be a watchful bird, as I can get fairly close photos of them. Plant material is of the greatest interest to these ducks, with a smaller emphasis on tiny crustaceans, tadpoles, worms, and insects.

Many eggs don’t hatch, as raccoons, squirrels, blackbirds, foxes, etc., eat the eggs. Hawks and eagles are common predators, and naturally, disease and accident contribute to their demise.

Factual Information

The oldest Blue-Winged Teal on record was 23 years and 3 months.

The Blue-Winged Teal is second to the Mallard as the most prolific in North America.

Male and Female Blue-Winged Teals
Male and Female Blue-Winged Teals | Source
Blue-winged Teal pair in flight.  Notice the beautiful speculum of both birds in the wing downstroke.
Blue-winged Teal pair in flight. Notice the beautiful speculum of both birds in the wing downstroke. | Source

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    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 10 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Follow me on Google+

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      Siddharth Kapoor 10 months ago

      I do not have one. I wish I had one. I find you a loving person.

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      Deb Hirt 10 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Siddharth--I'd love to see your work. Do you have a website?

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      Siddharth Kapoor 10 months ago

      Deb - I think I have become a fan of your photography. I am fond of taking pictures of birds from my DSLR when I find myself gloomy. I like the company of birds and I can understand them sometimes. I send you my heart of love.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, LadyFiddler. You like birds, eh?

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      Joanna Chandler 4 years ago from On planet Earth

      Interesting Hub :)

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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Wow, gamby, thanks! What a nice thing to say.

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      gamby79 4 years ago

      More facts learned! I truly enjoy reading your hubs. They are filled with beautiful photos, facts and information, and even a touch of humor. I always feel a tad more relaxed and happy after sitting down and reading your stories. Thank you avainnovice!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Joyce. As you can see, I really love my birds!

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      Joyce Haragsim 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

      The teal ducks are pretty. You are amazing writer you put a lot of information on with beauitful photos.

      Voted up and interesting, Joyce

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, daisyjae. Glad you enjoyed it. There will be more stories.

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 4 years ago from Canada

      Lots of interesting info about such a cute duck! I love your pics too.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      xstatic, water birds are easier for me. I have trouble with warblers and birds like them.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, Gloshei, get that camera out, so I can see some of your birds, too.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Klara. Glad that you like this great duck. I have been enjoying them at Boomer Lake, too.

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      Jim Higgins 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Really interesting info about a beautiful duck. I will have to see if they are in Oregon and seek them out. Ducks and other water birds are the hardest for me to identify. Up!

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      Gloria 4 years ago from France

      What a lovely little duck and as usual a very interesting hub. I must confess I haven't had my camera out for ages we are having some rotten weather, lets hop July is better.

      Thanks for this information it really is interesting.

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      klarawieck 4 years ago

      Deb, you've succeeded at creating another wonderful article about wildlife. What a beautiful animal this is! Thanks for sharing.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Bill. I love it when they are out and about and I can enjoy their presence.

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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      It is found through North America, from southern Alaska to the center of United States, Letitia. It winters from California to North Carolina, in Central America and South America to northern Chile and Argentina.

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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi aviannovice. Great Hub on this beautiful little duck. Have seen them here in Forest Park and they are a delight to watch. Great pictures also. Very well done. Will vote up, share and A,B,I.

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      LetitiaFT 4 years ago from Paris via California

      Beautiful indeed, hence teal blue. I didn't realize they were second most common after mallards. I'm ashamed to say I don't recall seeing any in the wild. I'll keep my eyes open for them next time I'm home to the States.

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