Green-winged Teal

(Photo Gallery below)

Green-wing Teals are very small size at only14” long. They are the smallest and most compact of the all teals and dabbing ducks. Green-winged Teal|Back Bay|Newport Beach, CA The males are very handsome in their chestnut, gray, and green costumes, while the females are rather drab!


In breeding, the male is a brownish-gray duck with a bright chestnut colored head and face. The face is bisected by a bottle green ear patch which is sometimes outlined in white.  The broad patch swoops back from his eye and down his neck.  He has gray flanks, a pinkish, dark spotted breast, and has a vertical white mark on his side in front of his folded wing. A yellowish-colored patch is visible on his rear. A field mark to look for is his bright green speculum bordered in brown above and white below.  He sports a small, dark, and narrow bill. His head is round; his body and neck are short. and he has gray legs. Non-breeding males in eclipse plumage look similar to the female.  Juveniles are also similar to the female.

The female is a small speckled, brown duck.  She has a small green square on her fore wings, which can be easily seen when she is in flight.  Her head is dark and a line runs through her eye and across her cheek.  She has a white chin and belly, and mottled flanks.  She can be identified from the other female teals by her small size and the buffy patch on her under tail.

Range and Habitat

Green-winged Teals are common across North America.  They breed from the arctic tundra south to the prairie region of the central United States and Canada.

Their habitat of choice is shallow marshes, lakes, ponds, rivers, bays, estuaries, and mudflats.  They remain further north in the winter than other North American Teals. Full winter migration starts in late August and lasts until into early December. They are early spring migrants with spring migration beginning in early February through April. They migrate in both the day and night with the males migrating first, and the females following later.


The male has a short whistle which is sometimes repeated.  He also gives a frog-like croaking noise.  The female has a short, crisp quack. They feed by dabbing on the surface of shallow water and walking along the mud flats. They eat seeds, grasses, insect larvae, pond weeds, crustaceans, invertebrates, fish eggs, and tadpoles.

Green-winged Teals are active and agile. They are able to spring straight into the air when startled. They have a fast flight, flying with their heads raised and with deep wing beats. Non-breeding teals fly in tightly grouped formations and are often seen wheeling and turning together in flight. You are also able to spot the green speculum, bordered in white, on the trailing edge of the wings when they are in flight.

They can be found feeding with other dabbing ducks, but tend to separate when they fly.

Breeding and Nesting

Pairs form by March on the wintering grounds.  Green-winged Teals have a social courtship.  Several males will swim around a single female giving displaying movements and loud, sharp whistles. They raise the feathers on their crowns, necks, and backs while they vibrate their wings.  They entice the female by raising their heads and giving many loud burps! They also head flick and tail wag.

Once a mate is chosen, the female digs a depression in the ground with her feet to form a nest.  She lines the nest with grass and down. The nest is placed in the tall grass and weeds near a lake or marsh.  It is usually placed so it is several hundred yards from the water. The female lays 10-12 eggs, incubating them alone for 20-24 days.  The male disappears from the nesting area as soon as the work begins!  He gathers with other males to molt. Females are very aggressive when defending their nest and chicks.  Several females may join together to protect their nests from predators.  The chicks are able to leave the nest within a day, and follow their mother down to the water to feed.  They fledge in about 30 days.  The female usually molts on the breeding grounds.

Photo Gallery Green-winged Teal

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