Living Bird Magazine
Green-winged TealAnas crecca
- ORDER: Anseriformes
- FAMILY: Anatidae
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.More ID Info
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.
- Cerceta Común (Spanish)
- Sarcelle d'hiver (French)
- Cool Facts
- The American and Eurasian forms of the Green-winged Teal were formerly considered different species. The Eurasian teal differ from the American by lacking the vertical white shoulder stripe and having a horizontal white stripe along the back instead. Eurasian teal show up casually each year along both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.
- The Aleutian Islands of Alaska support their own race of Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca nimia. Unlike other Green-winged Teal populations, this race doesn’t migrate. In winter the birds move from summering sites on ponds and lakes to the islands’ beaches, where they forage in tide pools and on shallow-water reefs.
- Green-winged Teals have closely spaced, comblike projections called lamellae around the inner edge of the bill. They use them to filter tiny invertebrates from the water, allowing the birds to capture smaller food items than other dabbling ducks.
- Green-winged Teal sometimes switch wintering sites from year to year. One banding study found that individuals wintering in Texas one year went as far away as California in subsequent years. This lack of philopatry, or “faithfulness” to a particular site, may reflect the tendency of males that did not breed the year before to try to find mates among a different set of wintering females.
- The oldest known Green-winged Teal was at least 20 years and 3 months, based on banding data. It was a female banded in 1941 in Oklahoma, and recovered by a hunter 1960 in Missouri.