Bird of the Week

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Photo courtesy Ben Bailey

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the blue-winged teal.
Among the ducks that summer here, the blue-winged teal is one of the last to arrive and the first to leave. It is a long-distance migrant, wintering as far south as Chile and breeding across much of the central U.S. and Canada into the Arctic. In North America, only the mallard is a more abundant duck.
This dabbling duck feeds on mudflats and in shallow marshes and ponds, where it is often found along the edges. Like many birds, in spring and summer it needs the extra protein of insects, larvae and invertebrates for producing eggs and feeding young, but its diet mainly consists of seeds, plant parts, grasses, sedges and pond weeds.
Blue-winged teals are small, crow-sized ducks with rounded heads and large black bills. In breeding plumage, the male has a brown body covered with dark speckles and a white patch near his rear. His slate blue head is cut by a bold white crescent behind the bill. Females have brown patterned plumage, a darker head cap and dark eye line. In flight, beautiful powder-blue and green patches display on the wings.
Young blue-wingeds mature quickly and are often left to fend for themselves before their first flight at six weeks. In fall, some migrating groups consist entirely of young birds, suggesting that the migratory route is instinctive, not learned.
Bird-watching is a great antidote to the current troubling news and an activity any family can share. When our Audubon chapter can resume group activities, they will be posted on our website, www.weminucheaudubon.org, or at www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.