My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

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. The scientific name is from Latin Anas, “duck” and carolinensis, “of Carolina”.

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.

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, such as taiga bogs, and usually feeds by dabbling for plant food or grazing. It nests on the ground, near water and under cover. While its conservation status is not evaluated by IUCN at present due to non-recognition of the taxon, it is plentiful enough to make it a species of Least Concern if it were; it is far more plentiful than the common teal.[8] 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.

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.

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

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 become sexually mature their first winter. They lay 5 to 16 eggs. The incubation period is 21 to 23 days.

Green-winged teals 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 ft (0.61 to 91.44 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. Where mud flats are lacking, they prefer shallow marshes or temporarily flooded agricultural lands. 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 (Cyperus spp.), millets (Panicum spp.), and sedges to larger seeds, but they also consume corn, wheat, barley, and buttonbush (Cephalanthus spp.) seeds. In marshes, sloughs, and ponds, green-winged teal select the seeds of bulrushes, pondweeds, and spikerushes (Eleocharis spp.). To a lesser extent they feed upon the vegetative parts of muskgrass (Chara spp.), pondweeds, widgeongrass (Ruppia maritima), and duckweeds (Lemna spp.). They will occasionally eat insects, mollusks, and crustaceans. Occasionally during spring months, green-winged teal will gorge on maggots of decaying fish which are found around ponds.


On to my photos:

These photos were shot at the Muskegon County wastewater facility over the past few years.

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca


Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca


Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca


Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca


Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca


Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca


Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca in flight

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca in flight


Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca

This is number 200 in my photo life list, only 150 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!



24 responses

  1. This is so nice! I was thinking to do the same here, in Haarlem NL, especially now that spring is coming and it will be madness on the canals. How do identify the bird specie? Thanks! Wonderful project 🙂

    January 5, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    • Thank you very much! Trying to photograph all the species of birds in your area is a great way to learn about birds, their habits, and habitats, I’m very glad that I chose to do this. As far as identifying them, I start with the best photos that I can shoot, then compare those photos to the ones that are in the various bird guides such as Sibley’s in book form, or the online guides such as

      January 6, 2017 at 12:56 am

  2. Oh.. How do you identify the bird specie? (Complete question)

    January 5, 2017 at 4:49 pm

  3. What a lovely duck! I love the green band on its head!

    January 5, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    • Thank you very much Clare! I hope to get better photos of these ducks in good light someday.

      January 6, 2017 at 12:22 am

  4. What an interesting bird, I loved the flash of bright green on its wing.

    January 5, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    • Thank you very much Susan! The green does show up well in good light, I need to shoot better photos of this species.

      January 6, 2017 at 12:23 am

  5. That’s a pretty little bird. I can’t remember ever seeing one though but at least now I know what to look for!

    January 5, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    • Thank you very much Allen! They prefer shallow water of small bodies of water, some of the ponds that you visit may hold some one day.

      January 6, 2017 at 12:25 am

  6. The green stripe and wing patch is rather striking. A very beautiful duck. Congratulations on reaching the 200 mark, with 150 to go!

    January 5, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    • Thank you very much Lavinia! I have a few more species yet to post, enough to put me very close to the 2/3 of the way done mark.

      January 6, 2017 at 12:26 am

  7. These ducks are very handsome as your photos show. I have one photo of them, but it did not show them close enough as you did so well.

    January 5, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    • Thank you very much Hien! I can see from my photos that this species, like most ducks, should be shot in full sun.

      January 6, 2017 at 12:26 am

  8. Lovely colouring especially that bright green head and the wing feathers seen when in flight. How big is small…if you know what I mean?!

    January 6, 2017 at 10:23 am

    • Thank you very much Marianne! They are just over half the size of a mallard.

      January 6, 2017 at 2:42 pm

  9. I’m looking at the first photos, and wondering why it’s called a green WINGED teal. Then all of the sudden, one of the photos with the vivid green band. Now, I get it!

    January 6, 2017 at 10:30 am

    • Thank you very much Judy! The colors are one of the reasons I held off posting this species for so long, I need to get them in flight on a sunny day so that the green really shows up well.

      January 6, 2017 at 2:44 pm

  10. Great shots, Jerry! An elusive duck for me, someday I hope I see one!

    January 8, 2017 at 9:33 am

    • Thank you very much Donna! Look for them in very shallow water.

      January 8, 2017 at 5:18 pm

      • Will do!

        January 10, 2017 at 4:34 pm

  11. Love that gorgeous green! Ducks 4 ever!!!

    January 8, 2017 at 9:41 am

    • Thank you very much Lori!

      January 8, 2017 at 5:19 pm

  12. Love the divers!!! Great pics Jerry!

    January 8, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    • Thank you very much Shiela!

      January 8, 2017 at 5:19 pm