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Identifying Blue-winged Teal, Green-winged Teal, and Cinnamon Teal

Blue-winged Teal, female. December in Orange County, California. Photo by Brian E. Small

Duck migration is a feature of early spring. Over much of North America, ducks are on the move in March, or even February. One of the last species to migrate is Blue-winged Teal, a small, elegant dabbler of freshwater marshes. When the Blue-wings arrive, it’s a sure sign that winter is over.

Until recently, all dabbling ducks on this continent were classified in a single genus, Anas. In a taxonomic shakeup in 2016, several were moved out to other genera. Blue-winged Teal, along with Cinnamon Teal and Northern Shoveler, is now in the genus Spatula(easy to remember if you think about the shoveler’s bill). All three of these have a large, pale blue patch on each wing, usually hidden except in flight.

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Kenn Kaufman

Kenn Kaufman

Kenn Kaufman is an expert birder and naturalist, a talented artist and photographer, a world traveler, and the author of many books about birds and other wildlife. His column “ID Tips” appears in every issue of BirdWatching. Kenn is also a field editor for Audubon Magazine and a contributor to Birds and Blooms. His work first appeared in Birder’s World (now BirdWatching) in April 1988. Visit his website, Kaufman Field Guides.

Kenn Kaufman on social media

Brian E. Small

Brian E. Small

Brian Small is a Los Angeles-based bird and nature photographer whose photos appear in the “ID Tips” column in every issue of BirdWatching. His work has been published in Time, The New York Times, Audubon, Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation, and many other publications. His photos also illustrate many field guides, including Kenn Kaufman’s Birds of North America, a series of state bird identification guides published with the American Birding Association, and his own Eastern and Western photographic field guides to the birds of North America published in 2009 with author Paul Sterry and Princeton University Press.

Brian E. Small on social media