Photo Credit: Copyright © Bill Horn


STATUS: Common to fairly common in winter, spring, and fall in all regions. Occasional in summer in Tennessee Valley. Lowest Conservation Concern.

DESCRIPTION:  Greenwing teal (Anas crecca) are the smallest of North American ducks with a short neck and small bill. Male green-winged teal have a cinnamon colored head with an iridescent green to purple patch extending from the eyes to the nape of the neck. The chest is pinkish-brown with black speckles, and the back, sides, and flanks are vermiculated gray, separated from the chest by a white bar. The wing coverts are brownish-gray with a green speculum. The bill is a dark slate, and legs and feet are dark gray. The male has a distinctive high-pitched “preep-preep” call.  Female green-winged teal are mottled brown with a dark brown line that extends from the bill through the eye. The bill is dark gray, and the legs and feet are olive-gray to brownish-gray. The female is relatively silent but has a sharp, high pitched “quack” when flushed. 

DISTRIBUTION:  Greenwing teal breed from Alaska, across Canada, into the Maritime Provinces, south into central California, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Green-winged teal are considered common in Central America and the northern Caribbean and occasionally south to Colombia during winter months.  They are common in Alabama only during their fall migration from the breeding grounds to their wintering grounds.  Some greenwing teal overwinter in Alabama  

HABITAT: Greenwing teal inhabit marshes, ponds, marshy lakes, and flooded agriculture fields such as rice or soybeans. They prefer small and shallow permanent ponds near boreal forest with an abundance of emergent vegetation, but also nest in prairie pothole country or in areas with dense emergent vegetation. Greenwing teal have an extensive range, having been recorded as far north as Alaska and Newfoundland and as far south as northern South America. They are most abundant along the Mississippi Flyway, where the coastal marshes and rice fields of Louisiana and Texas provide ideal habitat.

FEEDING HABITS:  Greenwing teal feed on seeds of sedges, smartweeds, pondweeds, grasses, aquatic insects, mollusks, crustaceans, and tadpoles found while foraging in and adjacent to mudflats or in shallow water.

LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY:Nesting chronology varies geographically.  In North Dakota, greenwing teal generally begin nesting in late April.  In the Northwest Territories, Canada, greenwing teal begin nesting between late May and early July.  At Minto Lakes, Alaska, greenwing teal initiate nesting as early as June 1 and as late as July 20. Greenwing teal lay five to 16 eggs that are incubated by the hen for a period of 21 to 23 days.

Molting - Male greenwing 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.

Migration - Greenwing teal are among the earliest spring migrants. They arrive on nesting areas almost as soon as the snow melts. Greenwing teal begin to depart their winter grounds in early February and continue through April.  In central regions they begin to arrive early in March with peak numbers in early April.

In northern areas of the United States, greenwing 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.


Bellrose, Frank C. 1980. Ducks, Geese and Swans of North America. Harrisburg, PA. Stackpole Books.

Author: Chuck Sharp, Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries