Bird of the Month: Blue-winged Teal


Blue-winged Teal. Photo by Ed Wright.

By Richard Schooler

A Blue-winged Teal was recently reported at Watson Woods in Prescott. And that’s news to celebrate.

The Blue-winged Teal is reported by Carl Tomoff in his “Birds of Prescott, Arizona” (2009) to be a rarely observed transient in the Prescott region. Breeding within the State of Arizona has been confirmed in southern Apache County and possible in southern Navajo County according to the “Arizona Breeding Bird Atlas” (Corman and Wise-Gervais, 2005). Breeding has not been reported or suspected in the Prescott region.

The male Blue-winged Teal is unmistakable with a bold white crescent in front of the eye and a white flank patch just in front of the tail. In flight, in addition to the white crescent on the head, a blue wing patch is evident on the wings, giving the bird its name. Unfortunately, the wing patch is not generally visible while the bird is on the water or sitting on land unless the bird is observed stretching its wings.

The female Blue-winged Teal is much more subtle. It doesn’t display the white facial crescent or flank patch. She does have a dark line through the eye and a faint small white patch on the lores behind the bill.

Both sexes have brownish underparts. In the fall, the plumage of both adults, regardless of sex, appear similar. The adult males gain their distinctive breeding plumage by mid-November to December.

The male Blue-winged Teal’s call is described as a peeping whistle or keck-keck-keck. The female’s call is a faint quack.

Primary breeding range for the Blue-winged Teal is the northern tier of states in the U.S. from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Northwest south to the northern Rocky Mountains and extending into the southern portion of Canada from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Coast and into the northern portions of the Prairie Provinces. Blue-winged Teal winter from Texas to the Carolinas in the U.S. and south into Mexico and Central and South America.


Rich Schooler has been birding for over thirty years. He has a master’s degree in geology and spent approximately 35 years working in the geotechnical and environmental consulting business. He became seriously interested in birding after moving to Arizona in 1982. Rich is a member of the Prescott Audubon Society board and chairman of the field trip committee.

Visit Prescott Audubon Society at PrescottAudubon.Org. Contact them at Contact@PrescottAudubon.Org.


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