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Green-winged Teal


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The little Green-winged Teal is the smallest dabbling duck in North America. The natty male has a cinnamon-colored head with a gleaming green crescent that extends from the eye to the back of the head. In flight, both sexes flash deep-green wing patches (specula). Look for them on shallow ponds and in flooded fields, and listen for the male’s decidedly non-ducklike whistle. These common ducks breed along northern rivers; wintering flocks can number as many as 50,000.

Keys to identification Help

Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Green-winged Teal are very small ducks. They have short, blocky bodies and their tails sit high out of the water. The head is large, the neck is short, and the bill is relatively small.

  • Color Pattern

    Adult males have grayish bodies with a narrow white vertical stripe extending from the waterline to the shoulder. In good light, their dark heads are cinnamon with a wide green swoop from the eye to the back of the neck. Females are brown with a yellowish streak along the tail. Both sexes have green wing patches in the secondaries (speculum), but these may be hidden when not in flight.

  • Behavior

    Green-winged Teal are dabbling ducks that feed on vegetation by tipping up in shallow water or by picking at food items while standing in puddles, flooded fields, and margins of wetlands.

  • Habitat

    Green-winged Teal feed on shallow bodies of water and in flooded fields. They breed in dense vegetation along river deltas. During migration and winter, look for them on shallow wetlands, coastal marshes and estuaries.

Range Map Help

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

Field MarksHelp

Similar Species

Similar Species

Male American Wigeon lacks the cinnamon-brown head and white flank stripe of male Green-winged Teal. Male wigeons are overall brownish instead of grayish, with a prominent white patch on the underside near the black undertail. Other small female ducks such as Blue-winged Teal and Cinnamon Teal are quite similar to female Green-winged Teal but are larger and less blocky in shape. Female Blue-winged and Cinnamon Teal are less dark than female Green-winged Teal, and lack the buffy-yellow stripe on the tail. In flight, these species also show a large light-blue patch in the wing and they lack the Green-winged Teal’s green speculum patch.

Regional Differences

In Europe and Asia, a form of the Green-winged Teal (often called Common Teal) lacks the male’s white vertical stripe on the breast and instead shows a white horizontal stripe on the shoulder. Another subspecies from the Aleutian Islands shares these markings with “Common” Teal.

Find This Bird

A good time to look for Green-winged Teal across most of the continent is during spring and fall migration, when the birds land in shallow wetlands, sometimes foraging in little more than puddles in flooded agricultural fields. They occur with other species of dabbling ducks, but they’ll stand out if you pay attention to their size and shape. Even the fairly uniform brown females are distinctive by silhouette: small and compact, sitting high in the water, with a fairly small bill. A small brown duck near a group of larger dabblers is probably not a young Mallard—and it could be a female Green-winged Teal. Look for the buffy yellow stripe along the tail for extra confirmation.

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.

Confusing Domestic Ducks (and hybrids).



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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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