Photo courtesy Charles Martinez
This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the green-winged teal.
In breeding plumage, the head of this small male duck appears to be painted using vibrant colors from an artist’s palette. An iridescent green patch extends from the back of his eyes to the nape of the neck across a chestnut-colored head. His pinkish-brown chest is covered with dark speckles and separated from his gray sides and back by a white bar.
Females are a more drab mottled brown with a dark line extending from the bill through the eye — coloring that serves to camouflage them when hiding on nests. Both sexes display a bright green wing patch in flight. These ducks are fast, agile fliers able to take off straight up from the water and fly in a tight formation as a flock when spooked.
Green-winged teal are the smallest dabbling ducks in North America and often winter in shallow wetland areas, lake edges and mudflats across the United States. Until recently, when it froze, the pond behind the Ross Aragon Community Center in town supported large numbers of these teal. In winter, they are often found in the warm-water wetlands along the Riverwalk and in the open areas of the river in town.
These teal are equipped with closely spaced comb-like structures around the inner edge of the bill which allow them to filter out and eat tiny invertebrates from the water. They also eat seeds found in water, mudflats and in agricultural fields, depending on what’s available.
Unlike many waterfowl species, the population numbers of this teal have increased in recent years.
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