Small dabbling duck 12” to 15” long with an average wingspan of 24”. Drakes have a reddish-brown head with a glossy green ear patch and speculum (leading wing edge) that gives this species its name. The body sides are pearl-gray, and distinctive vertical strips of white plumage bracket the black-spotted, buff-colored breast. Hens are a uniform brown.
Green-winged teal arrive the Bay region in late autumn from breeding grounds in Canada and the upper American Midwest. They remain only through the coldest part of the winter, leaving for the return journey in early spring.
Mostly leaves and seeds of aquatic plants.
Drakes voice a high whistle; hens quack. Listen to a sample (Requires RealPlayer)
The green-winged teal is the smallest of the Bay’s migratory waterfowl. This small size apparently equates with speed, for ornithologists estimate that green-winged teal can fly at speeds approximating 100 miles per hour. Flocks turn with extraordinary precision, prompting one observer to write that “ one would think that their wings must interfere, even on a straight course; yet of a sudden the whole flock will turn at a right angle , or wheel and twist as if it were one bird.”
The decoy pictured is from the collection of the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art and was photographed by Middleton Evans. Waterfowl sounds are courtesy of the Macaulay Lab of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.