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Green-winged Teal Life History


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


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


Nest Placement

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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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


Low Concern

Green-winged Teal are numerous, and their population increased between 1966 and 2019. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 6.7 million and rates them 8 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of low conservation concern. 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. Approximately 1.2 to 1.4 million Green-winged Teal were shot in the U.S. in 2019 and 2020. Bag limits for ducks are changed annually based on population size estimates and harvest objectives, helping to safeguard these species against declines.

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Dunne, P. (2006). Pete Dunne's essential field guide companion. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, USA.

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. Simon and Schuster Inc., New York, NY, USA.

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. (2020). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2020. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2020.

Partners in Flight. (2020). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2020.

Raftovich, R. V., K. K. Fleming, S. C. Chandler, and C. M. Cain (2021). Migratory bird hunting activity and harvest during the 2019–20 and 2020-21 hunting seasons. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Laurel, MD, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

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