Bird of the Week

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.
The green-winged teal is the smallest dabbling duck in North America and when seen swimming alongside a mallard, it appears tiny. They are found in shallow waters, often along the shoreline, or feeding on mudflats and sometimes on agricultural fields. In winter, they are seen feeding here at the edge of the river and in the open shallow ponds near the Riverwalk. They eat small invertebrates or seeds, whichever is most available.
Unlike songbirds, which display their bright, colorful breeding plumage in spring and summer, waterfowl acquire it in late fall and winter. A male green-winged teal in winter is identified by his cinnamon-colored head cut by a swath of green extending from the eye to the back of the neck. His grayish body has a white line extending from waterline to the shoulder. Females are brownish with a yellow patch near the tail. Both sexes display the bright green wing patch for which they are named in flight and sometimes while at rest.
In waterfowl, feathers which provide insulation, flotation, flight, camouflage and color are replaced in seasonal molts. After breeding season, these teals molt into drab, eclipse plumage and are rendered flightless for 20-40 days. Many species of waterfowl are difficult to distinguish during this phase, but winter is a great time to view them.
For information on local bird-watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.

This story was posted on January 6, 2019.