Daily Bird: Spring waterfowl — Green-winged Teal
Anas carolinensisby Nick Bonomo
April 7, 2021 — There were scores of Green-winged Teal on the marsh at Milford Point yesterday, and good numbers in recent days at Shell Beach in Guilford. They peak in abundance during March but there are still a number of Green-winged Teal scattered about the state in other locations as well.
Green-winged Teal is the smallest North American duck, with a length of only 14 inches.
Males and females are plumaged very differently from one another. The striking males pack a lot of color and pattern into their small package. They show a dark rufous head with a broad green patch behind the eye, a buffy breast specked with dark spots, a gray body with an obvious vertical white bar at the side of the breast, and a beige patch on the side of the tail.
Females are mostly brown with a dark line through the cheek, a faint pale eye ring, and a thick buffy line on the side of the tail.
Both males and females show a green speculum bordered by whitish lines when seen in flight.
Green-winged Teal is found in its greatest numbers in our larger coastal salt marshes. But they can occur in any wetland, inland or coastal, and also may be seen along the open coast or at inland ponds.
Keep an eye out for: If, while looking through a flock of Green-winged Teal, you notice a male with a long horizontal bar down the bird’s side rather than a short vertical bar at the breast side, you have found a “Eurasian” Green-winged Teal.
A couple of individuals of this subspecies are usually found every March-April in the state. The two forms hybridize, which would be indicated by a bird that has both a vertical and horizontal stripe. Both the “Eurasian” form and their hybrids are rare in these parts.
Conservation status: From an all-time low of 722,000 birds in 1962, Green-winged Teal populations have grown steadily since. In 2009, they reached an all-time high of 3.4 million (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2009).