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Discover Nature: Blue-Winged Teal Migration

An adult male blue-winged teal with speckled brown body and grey-blue head and beak drifts on water’s suface.
A male blue-winged teal drifts on the water’s surface. Watch for these small migratory ducks this week as they head south for their wintering grounds as far away as Argentina. ";

This week on Discover Nature, watch for a swift-flying migratory duck traveling through Missouri from the north.



Blue-winged teal breed all across North America, and they leave their summer homes early, from as far north as Alaska, to overwinter along the Gulf of Mexico, and as far south as Argentina. 


Adult males – called drakes – are small, each with a dark gray head and a white crescent between the eye and bill. A light blue patch adorns the forewing just above a greenish patch of feathers called a speculum. 


Females – or hens – are brown and also sport a blue wing patch, but lack the green speculum below. 


Find blue-winged teal foraging on aquatic vegetation such as sedges, seeds, and small invertebrates in shallow water; they rarely dive underwater. 


Teal generally stay in Missouri only briefly, so the best time to find them usually occurs when cold fronts bring winds favorable for migration. 


Learn more about blue-winged teal and other migratory waterfowl with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide.


Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Kyle Felling was born in the rugged northwest Missouri hamlet of St. Joseph (where the Pony Express began and Jesse James ended). Inspired from a young age by the spirit of the early settlers who used St. Joseph as an embarkation point in their journey westward, Kyle developed the heart of an explorer and yearned to leave for adventures of his own. Perhaps as a result of attending John Glenn elementary school, young Kyle dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but was disheartened when someone told him that astronauts had to be good at math. He also considered being a tow truck driver, and like the heroes of his favorite childhood television shows (The A-Team and The Incredible Hulk) he saw himself traveling the country, helping people in trouble and getting into wacky adventures. He still harbors that dream.
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