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Blue-winged Teal


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Pairs and small groups of this tiny dabbling duck inhabit shallow ponds and wetlands across much of North America. Blue-winged Teal are long distance migrants, with some birds heading all the way to South America for the winter. Therefore, they take off early on spring and fall migration, leaving their breeding grounds in the United States and Canada well before other species in the fall.

Keys to identification Help

Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    A small dabbling duck, a Blue-winged Teal is dwarfed by a Mallard and only a touch larger than a Green-winged Teal. Head is rounded and bill is on the large side.

  • Color Pattern

    Breeding males are brown-bodied with dark speckling on the breast, slaty-blue head with a white crescent behind the bill, and a small white flank patch in front of their black rear. Females and eclipse males are a cold, patterned brown. In flight, they reveal a bold powder-blue patch on their upperwing coverts.

  • Behavior

    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.

  • Habitat

    Look for Blue-winged Teal on calm bodies of water from marshes to small lakes. The prairie-pothole region is the heart of their breeding range, where they thrive in grassy habitats intermixed with wetlands.

Range Map Help

Blue-winged Teal Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult male breeding

    Blue-winged Teal

    Adult male breeding
    • Blue-gray head with bold white crescent mark between bill and eye
    • Black bill and iris
    • Black speckling on tan flanks and gray breast
    • White patches on sides of rump
    • © Christopher L. Wood, Rothsay WMA, Minnesota
  • Adult female

    Blue-winged Teal

    Adult female
    • Small size
    • Dark line through black eye
    • White at base of bill
    • Gray-brown scalloped pattern on flanks and back
    • © Christopher L. Wood, Agassiz NWR, Marshall County, Minnesota
  • Adult male breeding

    Blue-winged Teal

    Adult male breeding
    • Bold white crescent marks on face
    • Underwings two-toned with white near trailing edge and black at leading edge
    • Pale blue and white patch on upperwing
    • Tan breast and belly speckled with black
    • © Jessie H. Barry, Oklahoma, March 2008
  • Adult female

    Blue-winged Teal

    Adult female
    • Black bill, thin dark stripe through eye
    • Scalloped dark brown pattern on breast and belly
    • Pale-blue wing patch barely visible on folded wing
    • © hikerboy45, May 2009
  • Adult male breeding

    Blue-winged Teal

    Adult male breeding
    • Pale blue wing patch with white below and iridescent green on trailing edge of wing
    • White crescent between bill and eye
    • Blue-gray head
    • © Darin Ziegler, Pierce County, North Dakota, July 2009
  • Adult male breeding

    Blue-winged Teal

    Adult male breeding
    • Bold white crescents on face
    • Some breeding males have pale blue horizontal stripe above eye
    • Tan and black speckled breast and scalloped back
    • White patches on sides of rump, black above and beneath tail
    • © Ken Schneider, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Florida, March 2010
  • Adult female or eclipse male

    Blue-winged Teal

    Adult female or eclipse male
    • Males in eclipse plumage in late summer look very similar to females
    • Dark stripe through eye
    • Pale area at base of bill
    • Pale blue wing patch with smaller white area visible on folded wing
    • © Gary Tyson, Cape May, New Jersey, September 2010
  • Chicks

    Blue-winged Teal


Similar Species

  • Female

    Green-winged Teal

    • Very similar to female/eclipse Blue-winged Teal
    • Green patch on wing instead of blue
    • Darker brown overall, especially on crown and eye stripe
    • © Nature Kat, Bonelli Regional Park, San Dimas , California, February 2012
  • Male and Female

    Cinnamon Teal

    Male and Female
    • Female very similar to female/eclipse Blue-winged Teal
    • Larger bill
    • Warmer brown on face with less distinct markings
    • © Lois Manowitz, Stockham, Tucson, Arizona, March 2010

Similar Species

Female and immature Cinnamon Teal are notoriously difficult to distinguish from Blue-winged Teal. Cinnamon Teal is always larger-billed than Blue-winged. They also have a warmer-toned face, whereas Blue-winged Teal has colder, gray tones and a bolder facial pattern. Green-winged Teal has a slimmer bill and more boxy head. Their overall body color on females is darker brown, with a darker stripe through the eye and darker cap. Green-winged Teal in any plumage lack the pale blue upperwing coverts of Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal and Northern Shoveler.

    You Might Also Like

    Simple Steps for Identifying Confusing Brown Ducks—Females and Otherwise, All About Birds blog, November 21, 2014.

    What to Watch For: Duck Courtship [video], All About Birds blog, January 20, 2015.



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