Discover Nature this week as a swift-flying, migratory duck begins returning to Missouri from the north.
The blue-winged teal (Anas discors) breeds across North America, spending its summers as far north as Alaska. These ducks leave their summer homes early to overwinter along the Gulf of Mexico, or as far south as Peru, Brazil, and Argentina.
Adult males – or drakes – are small, each with a dark gray head and a white crescent between the eye and bill. A light blue patch adorns the fore-wing just above a greenish patch called a speculum, below.
The female – or hen – is brown with a dark eye line, and a whitish spot between the bill and the eye. Hens also sport blue wing patches, but have a gray-brown patch, instead of green, comprising the speculum, below.
Find blue-winged teal foraging on aquatic vegetation such as sedges, seeds and small invertebrates in shallow water; they rarely dive underwater.
Teal generally stay in Missouri only briefly, so the best time to find them usually occurs when cold fronts bring winds favorable for migration.
Learn more about the blue-winged teal, how to identify waterfowl in Missouri, and find a good place near you to see these birds in the wild with the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.