Blue-winged Teal

Spatula discors

Image by Andrea Westmoreland on Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 2.0

Physical: Blue-winged teals are small ducks distinguished by a chalky blue patch on their upper wings. Females display mottled brown feathers, accompanied by a white patch at the base of their bill and a dark bar across their eyes. Breeding males have slate-colored heads, a contrasting white crescent in front of their eyes, and black patches on their wings and rear. They also sport a white patch near their legs and a green patch below the blue on their wings.

Habitat: These ducks inhabit freshwater ponds as well as both brackish and freshwater marshes. They are typically found in Barnegat Bay during their breeding season, which occurs in late spring and summer. In the winter months, they migrate to warmer climates, including the Gulf of Mexico and parts of South America.

Feeding: Blue-winged teals predominantly feed on seeds from aquatic plants, including grasses, sedges, and pondweeds. They are also known to consume small aquatic animals such as snails, bivalves, insects, and crustaceans. Unlike some other dabbling ducks, they usually skim food from the water’s surface or submerge only their heads to feed, rather than tipping their whole bodies forward.

Breeding: Pairing begins in the early winter and continues during their spring migration. Males perform a variety of mating displays, including a unique one where they submerge the front half of their bodies, waving their tails and legs in the air. Pairs select nesting sites that can range from prairies and hayfields to coastal plains, often quite some distance from water bodies. The nests are well concealed within thick vegetation. Females typically lay 9-13 dull white or olive-tinged eggs, incubating them for about 23-24 days.

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