Vol 2, #6 – The Green-winged Teal

Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis) for Birds Illustrated

Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis) for Birds Illustrated


Just a common Duck?

No, I’m not. There is only one other Duck handsomer than I am, and he is called the Wood Duck. You have heard something about him before. I am a much smaller Duck, but size doesn’t count much, I find when it comes to getting on in the world—in our world, that is. I have seen a Sparrow worry a bird four times its size, and I expect you have seen a little boy do the same with a big boy many a time.

What is the reason I’m not a common Duck?

Well, in the first place, I don’t waddle. I can walk just as gracefully as I can swim. Your barn-yard Duck can’t do that. I can run, too, without getting all tangled up in the grass, and he can’t do that, either. But sometimes I don’t mind associating with the common Duck. If he lives in a nice big barn-yard, that has a good pond, and is fed with plenty of grain, I visit him quite often.

Where do I generally live?

Well, along the edges of shallow, grassy waters, where I feed upon grass, seeds, acorns, grapes, berries, as well as insects, worms, and small snails. I walk quite a distance from the water to get these things, too.

Can I fly?

Indeed I can, and very swiftly. You can see I am no common Duck when I can swim, and walk, and fly. You can’t do the last, though you can the first two.

Good to eat?

Well, yes, they say when I feed on rice and wild oats I am perfectly delicious. Some birds were, you see, born to sing, and flit about in the trees, and look beautiful, while some were born to have their feathers taken off, and be roasted, and to look fine in a big dish on the table. The Teal Duck is one of those birds. You see we are useful as well as pretty. We don’t mind it much if you eat us and say, “what a fine bird!” but when you call us “tough,” that hurts our feelings.

Good for Christmas?

Oh, yes, or any other time—when you can catch us! We fly so fast that it is not easy to do; and can dive under the water, too, when wounded.

Something about our nests?

Oh, they are built upon the ground, in a dry tuft of grass and weeds and lined with feathers. My mate often plucks the feathers from her own breast to line it. Sometimes she lays ten eggs, indeed once she laid sixteen.

Such a family of Ducklings as we had that year! You should have seen them swimming after their mother, and all crying, Quack, quack, quack! like babies as they were.

Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis) by Bob-Nan

Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis) by Bob-Nan



HANDSOME little Duck indeed is this, well known to sportsmen, and very abundant throughout North America. It is migratory in its habits, and nests from Minnesota and New Brunswick northward, returning southward in winter to Central America and Cuba.

The green wing is commonly found in small flocks along the edges of shallow, grassy waters, feeding largely upon seeds of grasses, small acorns, fallen grapes or berries, as well as aquatic insects, worms, and small snails. In their search for acorns these ducks are often found quite a distance from the water, in exposed situations feeding largely in the night, resting during the day upon bogs or small bare spots, closely surrounded and hidden by reeds and grasses.

On land this Duck moves with more ease and grace than any other of its species except the Wood Duck, and it can run with considerable speed. In the water also it moves with great ease and rapidity, and on the wing it is one of the swiftest of its tribe. From the water it rises with a single spring and so swiftly that it can be struck only by a very expert marksman; when wounded it dives readily.

As the Teal is more particular in the selection of its food than are most Ducks, its flesh, in consequence, is very delicious. Audubon says that when this bird has fed on wild oats at Green Bay, or soaked rice in the fields of Georgia or Carolina, it is much superior to the Canvas back in tenderness, juiciness, and flavor.

G. Arnold, in the Nidologist, says while traveling through the northwest he was surprised to see the number of Ducks and other wild fowl in close proximity to the railway tracks. He found a number of Teal nests within four feet of the rails of the Canadian Pacific in Manitoba. The warm, sun-exposed banks along the railway tracks, shrouded and covered with thick grass, afford a very fair protection for the nests and eggs from water and marauders of every kind. As the section men seldom disturbed them—not being collectors—the birds soon learned to trust them and would sit on their nests by the hour while the men worked within a few feet of them.

The green-winged Teal is essentially a fresh-water bird, rarely being met with near the sea. Its migrations are over the land and not along the sea shore. It has been seen to associate with the Ducks in a farmer’s yard or pond and to come into the barn-yard with tame fowls and share the corn thrown out for food.

The nests of the Teal are built upon the ground, generally in dry tufts of grass and often quite a distance from the water. They are made of grass, and weeds, etc., and lined with down. In Colorado under a sage brush, a nest was found which had been scooped in the sand and lined warmly with down evidently taken from the bird’s own breast, which was plucked nearly bare. This nest contained ten eggs.

The number of eggs, of a pale buff color, is usually from eight to twelve, though frequently sixteen or eighteen have been found. It is far more prolific than any of the Ducks resorting to Hudson’s Bay, and Mr. Hearn says he has seen the old ones swimming at the head of seventeen young when the latter were not much larger than walnuts.

In autumn the males usually keep in separate flocks from the females and young. Their notes are faint and piping and their wings make a loud whistling during flight.


GREEN-WINGED TEAL.Anas carolinensis.

Range—North America, migrating south to Honduras and Cuba.

Nest—On the ground, in a thick growth of grass.

Eggs—Five to eight, greenish-buff, usually oval.

Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca) by Ian

Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca) by Ian

Lee’s Addition:

Of all clean birds ye shall eat. (Deuteronomy 14:11 KJV)

Unfortunately, at least for me, people do eat ducks and teals. I prefer to go birdwatching and only “shoot” the birds with my camera. They just seem too pretty to harm, but I can’t condemn those who eat them. I do have a problem with those who only kill them to hang them on a wall. Anyway.

The Green-winged Teals are in the Anatidae – Ducks, Geese & Swans – Family which has currently 172 species of which 24 are Teals. Are North American ones, according to Sibley’s, are the Green-winged, Blue-winged and the Cinnamon Teals.

The Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis) or (Anas crecca carolinensis) is a common and widespread duck that breeds in the northern areas of North America except on the Aleutian Islands. It was considered conspecific with the Common Teal (A. crecca) for some time but the issue is still being reviewed by the American Ornithologists’ Union; based on this the IUCN and BirdLife International do not accept it as a separate species at present. However, nearly all other authorities consider it distinct based on behavioral, morphological, and molecular evidence.

This dabbling duck is strongly migratory and winters far south of its breeding range. It is highly gregarious outside of the breeding season and will form large flocks. In flight, the fast, twisting flocks resemble waders.

Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis) by Daves BirdingPix

Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis) by Daves BirdingPix

This is the smallest North American dabbling duck. The breeding male has grey flanks and back, with a yellow rear end and a white-edged green speculum, obvious in flight or at rest. It has a chestnut head with a green eye patch. It is distinguished from drake Common Teals (the Eurasian relative of this bird) by a vertical white stripe on side of breast, the lack of both a horizontal white scapular stripe and the lack of thin buff lines on its head.

The females are light brown, with plumage much like a female Mallard. They can be distinguished from most ducks on size, shape, and the speculum. Separation from female Common Teal is problematic. In non-breeding (eclipse) plumage, the drake looks more like the female.

It is a common duck of sheltered wetlands, and usually feeds by dabbling for plant food or grazing. It nests on the ground, near water and under cover. It is plentiful enough to make it a species of Least Concern if it were; it is far more plentiful than the Common Teal. It can be seen in vast numbers in the Marismas Nacionales of western Mexico, a main wintering area.

This is a noisy species. The male has a clear whistle, whereas the female has a feeble “quack”.

All three Green-winged Teal subspecies occur in the northern hemisphere during summer and in winter extend to northern South America, central Africa, southern India, Burma, and the Philippines. In North America, ssp.carolinensis occurs across the continent and is joined in the Aleutian Islands by ssp. nimia, which remains there throughout the year. Anas crecca breeds in Iceland, Europe, and Asia. It is also seen occasionally during the winter in North America along the Atlantic Coast. The American green-winged teal winters from southern Alaska and southern British Columbia east to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and south to Central America. It also winters in Hawaii.

The American green-winged teal breeds from the Aleutian Islands, northern Alaska, Mackenzie River delta, northern Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Labrador south to central California, central Nebraska, central Kansas, southern Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland, and the Maritime Provinces. Nesting chronology varies geographically. In North Dakota, Green-winged Teal generally begin nesting in late April. In the Northwest Territories, Canada, Green-winged Teal begin nesting between late May and early July. At Minto Lakes, Alaska, Green-winged Teal initiate nesting as early as June 1 and as late as July 20. 

Green-winged Teal lay 5 to 16 eggs. The incubation period is 21 to 23 days. They often fledge 34 to 35 days after hatching or usually before 6 weeks of age. Young Green-winged Teal have the fastest growth rate of all ducks. Male Green-winged Teal leave females at the start of incubation and congregate on safe waters to molt. Some populations undergo an extensive molt migration while others remain on or near breeding grounds. Females molt on breeding grounds.

Green-winged Teal are among the earliest spring migrants. They arrive on nesting areas almost as soon as the snow melts. In early February, Green-winged Teal begin to depart their winter grounds, and continue through April. In central regions Green-winged Teal begin to arrive early in March with peak numbers in early April.

In northern areas of the United States, Green-winged Teal migrating to wintering grounds appear in early September through mid-December. They begin migrating into most central regions during September and often remain through December. On their more southerly winter areas, Green-winged Teal arrive as early as late September, but most do not appear until late November.

Green-winged Teal inhabit inland lakes, marshes, ponds, pools, and shallow streams with dense emergent and aquatic vegetation. They prefer shallow waters and small ponds and pools during the breeding season. Green-winged Teal are often found resting on mudbanks or stumps, or perching on low limbs of dead trees. These ducks nest in depressions on dry ground located at the base of shrubs, under a log, or in dense grass. The nests are usually 2 to 300 feet (6–91 m) from water. Green-winged teal avoid treeless or brushless habitats. Green-winged teal winter in both freshwater or brackish marshes, ponds, streams, and estuaries. As they are smaller birds, they tend to stay in the calmer water.

Green-winged Teal, more than any other species of duck, prefer to seek food on mud flats. They usually eat vegetative matter consisting of seeds, stems, and leaves of aquatic and emergent vegetation. Green-winged Teal appear to prefer the small seeds of nutgrasses, millets and sedges to larger seeds, but they also consume corn, wheat, barley, and buttonbush seeds. In marshes, sloughs, and ponds, Green-winged Teal select the seeds of bulrushes, pondweeds, and spikerushes. To a lesser extent they feed upon the vegetative parts of muskgrass, pondweeds, widgeongrass and duckweeds. They will occasionally eat insects, mollusks, and crustaceans.[8][10] Occasionally during spring months, Green-winged Teal will gorge on maggots of decaying fish which are found around ponds.

Common predators of Green-winged Teal include humans, skunks, red foxes, raccoons, crows, and magpies.

Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis) by Daves BirdingPix

Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis) by Daves BirdingPix


Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

The above article is an article in the monthly serial for October 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited


(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources, with editing)

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Falling Plates