• Species: Blue-winged teal.
• Scientific name: Anas discors.
• Nicknames: None.
• Claim to fame: This small duck’s migratory flights through this area each fall provides waterfowl hunters with an early hunting opportunity.
Most of Missouri’s waterfowl seasons start in late October or November (depending on what zone you hunt in), but the state’s teal season is a state-wide event held earlier prior to these seasons.
As well as blue-winged teal, Missouri’s teal season also includes green-winged teal and cinnamon teal. Of these three, blue-winged teal are the type most often taken by hunters.
• Species status: Thanks to good habitat conditions in much of the prairie regions of Canada and the north-central U.S., blue-winged teal populations appear to be relatively stable.
• First discovered: The first scientific description of the blue-winged teal was written by the renowned naturalist Carl Linnaeus in 1766.
• Family matters: The blue-winged teal belongs to the bird family Anatidae. This group includes ducks, geese and all other species commonly referred to as waterfowl.
Within this grouping, blue-winged teal belong to the sub-family Anatinae, a collection of species commonly referred to as the marsh ducks.
Members of this sub-family are usually surface feeders that are most frequently found in creeks, ponds and marshes. They feed by dabbling and up-ending and they take flight directly into the air.
• Length: Up to 16 inches (wingspan of 23 inches).
• Weight: Approximately 13 ounces.
• Diet: The main foods of blue-winged teal are seeds, other plant materials, aquatic insects and invertebrates.
• Distinguishing characteristics: The male has a slate-blue head with a large white crescent near its eyes, a mottled brown chest and sides and a white patch in front of its black tail.
The female is mottled brown all over. Both genders have a large gray-blue patch on the wing, from which the species takes its name.
• Life span: Information not available.
• Habitat: Like other species of teal, blue-wings prefer marshes, shallow ponds and lakes.
• Life cycle: The breeding season begins in early May. Nesting habitat is usually adjacent to a small body of water, which may be a small pond, shallow lake or the prairie “pot-hole” lakes which are common in the northern Great Plains region of the United States and Canada.
The nest is usually placed on the ground and hidden by vegetation. The female builds the nest of grass and other plant material. She may lay as many as 15 eggs, but most often, the number is eight to 11.
Eggs are incubated by the female for approximately 24 days. Young are cared for by the female. They leave the nest shortly after hatching and gain complete independence in 35 to 44 days.