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A photo of a Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis), male
Green-winged Teal, Male

Green-winged Teal

Anas carolinensis

The American Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis), a diminutive and sprightly member of the dabbling duck family, graces the northern reaches of North America with its presence. This species, once thought to be the same as its Eurasian counterpart, has been recognized as distinct, a testament to its unique characteristics. The male, resplendent in breeding plumage, sports a chestnut head adorned with a striking green eye patch, while the female's mottled brown feathers provide excellent camouflage.

Identification Tips

To identify the male Green-winged Teal, look for the combination of grey flanks and back, a yellow rump, and a green speculum edged in white. The vertical white stripe on the side of the breast sets it apart from its Eurasian relative. Females, though more subdued in color, can be recognized by their size, shape, and the speculum. In eclipse plumage, the drake resembles the female, making identification more challenging.

Habitat

The Green-winged Teal thrives in sheltered wetlands, including taiga bogs and marshes with abundant emergent vegetation. They show a preference for shallow waters and small ponds during the breeding season.

Distribution

Breeding from the Aleutian Islands to Labrador, this teal's range extends south to central California and the Maritime Provinces. In winter, it migrates as far south as Central America and even to Hawaii, with a rare sighting in South America.

Behaviour

Outside the breeding season, the Green-winged Teal is highly sociable, forming large flocks that can be seen in twisting, agile flight. They are early migrants, often arriving at their breeding grounds as soon as the snow retreats.

Song & Calls

The male's whistle is clear and piercing, while the female's vocalization is a more subdued quack.

Breeding

Green-winged Teals are early breeders, with nesting commencing shortly after the thaw. They nest on the ground, concealed by vegetation, and lay clutches of 5 to 16 eggs. The young are swift growers, fledging before six weeks of age.

Diet and Feeding

These teals have a penchant for foraging on mudflats, where they primarily consume seeds of aquatic vegetation. They also partake in insects, mollusks, and crustaceans when available.

Conservation status

While the IUCN does not currently recognize the Green-winged Teal as a separate taxon, its abundance would likely classify it as a species of Least Concern. It is more plentiful than its common teal relative and can be observed in significant numbers in certain wintering areas.

Similar Species

The Green-winged Teal can be confused with the female common teal, but careful observation of size, shape, and the speculum can aid in differentiation.

Predators

Predation threats to the Green-winged Teal include humans, skunks, red foxes, raccoons, crows, and magpies.

Relationships

Genetic studies suggest a close relationship with the Speckled Teal, though the intricate web of relationships within the teal group remains a subject of scientific intrigue. Hybridization among duck species complicates the understanding of their evolutionary history.

Green-winged Teal Sounds

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Green-winged Teals on Birda

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