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    Green-winged Teal Life History

    Habitat

    Habitat MarshesGreen-winged Teal breed mostly in isolated river deltas, forest wetlands, and mixed prairie regions across northern North America—they occur in the prairie pothole region, but they are not as restricted to it as many other dabbling ducks. Nesting sites include grasslands or sedge meadows that provide brush thickets of sedge or cattail for cover, and weedy or burned areas. They also favor beaver ponds in wooded areas, and nest along streams, potholes, lakes, and human-made wetlands. The race living on the Aleutian Islands nests near shallow, weedy ponds, saltwater shorelines, and beaches. Migrating birds stop over in shallow wetlands, coastal marshes, and flooded fields. Wintering birds typically flock to shallow wetlands, including coastal marshes and bayous, estuaries, the playa lakes of Texas’s southern high plains, riparian sloughs, and agricultural areas such as rice fields. The nonmigratory Aleutian race of Alaska winters along the islands’ beaches.Back to top

    Food

    Food SeedsGreen-winged Teal eat mainly aquatic invertebrates and seeds. They feed in shallow water, near shorelines, on mudflats, and in agricultural fields, taking advantage of whatever foods are most abundant. Migrating and wintering birds may feed at night or during the day. On the water they dabble along the surface where they pluck or strain seeds and invertebrates, and dip their head and neck or tip up to reach submerged food. They also probe mudflats for invertebrates and eat worms, seed shrimp, and copepods living just above the sediment. Depending on where they’re feeding, plant foods may include sedge fruit, seeds of pondweeds, grasses, smartweeds, sea purslane, bulrush, dwarf spikerush, swamp timothy, and agricultural crops including corn and rice. Animal prey includes midges, tadpoles, molluscs, and crustaceans. Chicks up to 2 weeks old eat mainly insect larvae.Back to top

    Nesting

    Nest Placement

    Nest GroundWith the male following behind, the female chooses a well-concealed site on the ground, usually within about 200 yards of water. Nests are typically built in sedge meadows, grasslands, brush thickets, or in woods near a pond. The female chooses a spot that offers dense cover that may form a complete canopy over the nest.

    Nest Description

    The female uses her feet to scrape a nest bowl where she lays the first egg, then adds plant material such as grasses, sedges, and leaves from around the nest site, using a sideways motion of her bill to build up a nest measuring 6–7 inches across and 2–6 inches deep. After laying her last egg, the female adds her down feathers to the nest bowl before beginning to incubate.

    Nesting Facts
    Clutch Size:6-9 eggs
    Egg Length:1.7-2.0 in (4.3-5 cm)
    Egg Width:1.3-1.4 in (3.2-3.5 cm)
    Incubation Period:20-23 days
    Egg Description:Creamy white to pale olive-buff
    Condition at Hatching:Precocial chicks hatch with eyes open, covered in yellow and dark olive-brown down.
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    Behavior

    Behavior DabblerGreen-winged Teal are fast, agile, buoyant flyers. They can take off straight from the water without running across the surface. Though they are dabbling ducks that usually tip up to feed, they occasionally dive for food and to avoid predators. In winter Green-winged Teal gather in roosting flocks of up to 50,000 birds. Courtship starts in the fall and peaks in January and February; they choose new partners each year. Males try to secure a mate using an elaborate set of movements and vocal displays, with groups of up to 25 males courting females both on the water and in courtship flights. Although most pairs form on the wintering grounds, pair formation continues during spring migration and on the breeding grounds. The male defends its mate from copulation attempts by other males, then deserts the female once incubation is underway. A few hours after they hatch the chicks can swim, dive, walk, and forage for themselves, although the female continues to brood them at night and to protect them when the weather turns cold. Back to top

    Conservation

    Conservation Low ConcernGreen-winged Teal are numerous and their population has increased over recent decades, according to waterfowl surveys by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They estimated the North American breeding population in 2015 was at least 4 million, almost double the long-term average. Green-winged Teal are not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. Most of the population breeds in Canada and Alaska, where relatively remote and inaccessible nesting areas buffer this species from habitat losses farther south caused by agricultural and urban development. Green-winged Teal are second only to Mallards in the number of ducks taken by hunters each year, with about 1.7 million shot per year in the U.S. Bag limits for ducks are changed annually based on population size estimates and harvest objectives, helping to safeguard these species against declines. Back to top

    Credits

    Dunne, Pete. 2006. Pete Dunne's essential field guide companion: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

    Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder's handbook. A Field Guide to the natural history of North American birds, including all species that regularly breed north of Mexico. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc.

    Johnson, Kevin. 1995. Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

    Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2015.2. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2015.

    North American Bird Conservation Initiative. 2014. The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

    Raftovich, R. V., S. C. Chandler and K. A. Wilkins. 2015. Migratory bird hunting activity and harvest during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 hunting seasons. Laurel, Maryland, USA: US Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Sibley, David Allen. 2014. The Sibley guide to birds, second edition. Alfred A Knopf, New York.

    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2015. Waterfowl population status, 2015. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior.

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