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blue-winged teal

Anas discors

What do they look like?

These ducks are called blue-winged teal because both sexes have blue spots on their forewings. They also have large white patches on the front of the wing, best visible when in flight. Males are smaller than females. Males have a large white crescent on their face, between the eye and the bill, and a white patch on their rear. Females lack the crescent and white patch, they have dull gray-brown coloration.

Wingspans range from 56 to 62 cm, and total lengths are typically 36 to 41 cm. Adults weigh 280 to 499 g.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • male more colorful
  • Range mass
    280 to 499 g
    9.87 to 17.59 oz
  • Range length
    36 to 41 cm
    14.17 to 16.14 in
  • Range wingspan
    56 to 62 cm
    22.05 to 24.41 in

Where do they live?

During the summer months, blue-winged teal can be found throughout North America, from southeastern Alaska to the Atlantic coast. They are found in as far south as the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana. In the winter months they migrate to the southern parts of the U.S. and into Central and South America.

What kind of habitat do they need?

Freshwater habitats for blue-winged teal include shallow ponds and wetlands. During breeding season, blue-winged teal remain near the water's edge in ponds and wetlands, preferring to breed in areas of calm, sluggish water.

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • temporary pools

How do they reproduce?

Blue-winged teal have a single mate during the breeding season, but they usually change mates between breeding seasons. Pairs are formed on wintering grounds and during spring migration.

Males perform courtship displays to attract females. Usually, courtship begins in flight, when males call and pursue females. A typical on-water display would be: a male swims in front of a female and with his body at an angle to her and his head pointing away. The female accepts a male by stretching her head outward. Then her head is lowered and her bill is pointed toward the male. At the end they both bob their heads up and down.

Blue-winged teal nest from late April through early May. They breed in wetland areas within grasslands, shallow marshes, sloughs, flooded ditches, and temporary ponds. Females lay 6 to 14 eggs, which take 21 to 40 days to hatch. Young reach the fledgling stage at about 24 days and are independent after 40 days.

  • How often does reproduction occur?
    Blue-winged teal breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    Blue-winged teal mate from late spring to early summer.
  • Range eggs per season
    6 to 14
  • Range time to hatching
    21 to 40 days
  • Range fledging age
    24 to 25 days
  • Range time to independence
    40 (low) days

Females are in charge of nest maintenance and rearing the young, males do not help out. Females make a nest by digging a bowl-shaped depression and pulling in dried grass. She lays one egg per day, up to around 10 or more eggs. When the eggs hatch the female preens her hatchlings until they are dry and clean. She then leads her ducklings to a nearby wetland and does not return to the nest. The young remain with their mother until they are ready to fly, about 40 days post-hatching.

  • Parental Investment
  • precocial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

How long do they live?

Most blue-winged teal ducklings do not survive through their first few years. They get parasites and diseases as young birds or do not survive their first migration attempt. Botulism (Clostridium botulinum) and avian cholera (Pasteurella multocida), both bacterial diseases, kill blue-winged teals when they are found in the water where they live. Blue-winged teal that do survive to adulthood can live up to 17 years.

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    17.4 (high) years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    17.4 (high) years

How do they behave?

Blue-winged teal are very social, except during the breeding season when males and females move off into nesting areas. They migrate between wintering and breeding ranges each year and are active during the day. Blue-winged teal can walk well on land and in shallow water. They often rest and preen on logs and rocks that are slightly above water. They can gain flight directly from land or water. The only time a blue-wing teal will dive in the water is if threatened by a predator or when trying to escape from other ducks.

Home Range

Blue-winged teal establish small territories around nests during the breeding season.

How do they communicate with each other?

Male blue-winged teal make a set of sounds to attract females, including a high-pitched whistle "peew" and low-pitched nasal "paay."

Females use loud quacks during the breeding season to communicate with their mates and with their young.

What do they eat?

Blue-winged teal eat a variety of aquatic invertebrates and vegetation. Invertebrate prey include insects, crustaceans, snails, and small clams. They also eat seeds. When females are breeding they require a diet higher in protein, so they eat more invertebrates and seeds.

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • mollusks
  • aquatic crustaceans
  • other marine invertebrates

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Long-tailed weasels often consume blue-wing teal eggs. Females are preyed on by raptors when they are on their nests. In prairies, these ducks are captured by red foxes. Females and ducklings are cryptically colored to avoid detection by prey.

Other predators include: peregrine falcons, mink, raccons, bald eagles, great horned owls, red-tailed hawks, coyotes, striped skunks, American badgers, American crows, black-billed magpies, and Franklin's ground squirrels.

  • These animal colors help protect them
  • cryptic

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Blue-winged teal impact populations of aquatic invertebrates and vegetation by eating them. They are a source of prey for many predators. Blue-winged teal often flock with other species of dabbling ducks.

Species (or larger taxonomic groups) that are mutualists with this species
  • other dabbling ducks (Anas)
Commensal or parasitic species (or larger taxonomic groups) that use this species as a host
  • Avian cholera (Pasteurella multocida)
  • protozoans (Cyanthocotyle bushiensis)
  • protozoans (Spahaeridotreme globulus)

Do they cause problems?

Blue-winged teal don't negatively impact humans directly. However, many ducks species, including blue-winged teal, can carry and transmit avian influenza.

  • Ways that these animals might be a problem for humans
  • injures humans
    • carries human disease

How do they interact with us?

Blue-winged teal are game birds. (Rohwer, et al., 2002)

  • Ways that people benefit from these animals:
  • food

Are they endangered?

Blue-winged teal, although not rare, are protected under the Migratory Bird Act. Teal are hunted throughout much of their range, although hunting is generally regulated. Blue-winged teal populations have been harmed by pesticides such as dieldrin and by eating or being trapped in plastic trash. They are also hit by cars and can become entangled in power lines, fences, and other human structures. Blue-winged teal populations, along with the populations of many other duck species, have declined because of human destruction of wetlands.

Contributors

Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Monica Mingo (author), Radford University, Karen Francl (editor, instructor), Radford University.

References

Bailey, R., N. Seymour, G. Stewart. 1973. Rape behavior in blue-winged teal. Auk, 95: 188-190.

Bennett, L. 1938. The blue-winged teal: its ecology and management. Boston: Collegiate Press.

Botero, J. 1994. Foods of Blue-Winged Teal in Two Neotropical Wetlands. Wildlife Ecology, 12: 561-565.

Connelly, J., I. Ball. 1984. Comparisons of aspects of breeding blue-winged and cinnamon teal in eastern Washington. Wilson Bulletin, 96/4: 626-633.

Glover, F. 1986. Nesting and Production of the Blue-Winged Teal (Anas discors Linnaeus) in Northwest Iowa. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 20: 28-46.

Guillemain, M., C. Arzel, P. Legagneux, H. Fritz. 2007. Predation risk constrains the plasticity of foraging behaviour in teals, Anas crecca: a flyway-level circumannual approach. Animal Behavior, 73/5: 845-854.

Kear, J. 2005. Ducks, Goose and Swans. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

Lemaster, R. 1985. The Great Gallery of Ducks and Other Waterfowl. Mechanicburg, PA: Stackpole Books.

Livezey, B. 1980. Effects of selected observers-related factors on fates of ducks nests. Journal of Wildlife Management, 8: 123-128.

Rohwer, F. 1986. Composition of Blue Winged Teal Eggs in Relation to eggs size, Clutch Timing of Laying. The Condor, 88: 513-519.

Rohwer, F., W. Johnson, E. Loos. 2002. Blue-winged teal. The Birds of North American, 625: 1-35.

Smith, R., L. Flake. 1985. Movement and Habitat of Brood-rearing Wood Ducks on a Praire River. Journal of Wildlife Management, 42/9: 437-442.

 
University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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Mingo, M. 2008. "Anas discors" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed August 01, 2014 at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/accounts/Anas_discors/

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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