LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- This week we'll be talking about teal. We have three kinds in Arkansas, the Blue-winged Teal and the Green-winged Teal, and the exceptionally rare (in Arkansas) Cinnamon Teal. The Cinnamon Teal is Western species, so it is not rare throughout its range. We talked about Blue-winged Teal back in March, but teal hunting season starts this Saturday, and Blue-wings will be what most people are after this early in the season.
The early teal hunting season runs Sept. 7 - Sept. 22. Teal season is quite a bit earlier in the year than regular duck season because those guys migrate south so much earlier than many of our other duck species. Blue-wings typically arrive in Arkansas in good numbers in early- to mid-September, and the Green-wings usually follow closely behind and arrive in late September or early October, though some Green-wings will start to trickle through during this early hunting season.
Pairs and small groups of this tiny dabbling duck inhabit shallow ponds and wetlands across much of North America. Blue-winged Teal are long distance migrants, with some birds heading all the way to South America for the winter. Therefore, they take off early on spring and fall migration, leaving their breeding grounds in the United States and Canada well before other species in the fall. 1 individual banded in Alberta was found in Venezuela just a few months later! Breeding males are brown-bodied with dark speckling on the breast, slaty-blue head with a white crescent behind the bill, and a small white flank patch in front of their black rear. Females and eclipse males are a cold, patterned brown. In flight, they reveal a bold powder-blue patch on their upperwing coverts.
A very small, brightly patterned duck, the Green-winged Teal has a iridescent green patch in the wings, with a white stripe in front. The male has a dark reddish and iridescent green head. It prefers shallow ponds with lots of emergent vegetation. Along the coast, it prefers tidal creeks, mudflats, and marshes to more open water.
Both of these birds are just gorgeous, and can often be seen in mixed flocks with other dabbling ducks. They are favored by hunters, both due to their early hunting season (duck hunters are an obsessive bunch), and for the delectable meat. They taste a lot like a Mourning Dove, only bigger! If people want more info on season dates on early migratory bird hunting seasons, they can find out more at www.agfc.com