Many of us travel this time of year for holidays, so it’s fitting that we recently had a migratory bird stopover at Nature Boardwalk. From November 9–16 we saw a female blue-winged teal (Anas discors) swimming around the pond with a flock of mallards.
Blue-winged teals are common dabbling ducks in North America, where they are second in abundance only to the familiar mallards we see all the time at Nature Boardwalk. They haven’t been common here, however, as this was our first blue-winged teal of the season.
Blue-winged teals act like mallards, and females of both species look very similar, so it takes a keen eye to tell them apart. The blue-winged teal female that visited Nature Boardwalk was distinguishable due to her smaller size, black beak and powder-blue shoulder patch. You have to watch particularly closely to see the powder-blue wing feathers that give these birds their name, as this patch of feathers is often concealed when the birds’ wings are folded at rest or during swimming. (You may have to wait until the bird stretches out his or her wings to see it.)
We haven’t observed the blue-winged teal female during our daily bird counts since November 16. We guess she is probably making her way south toward warmer winter grounds. We were lucky that she chose to make a stopover at Nature Boardwalk!