The blue-winged, green-winged and cinnamon teal can be grouped together because of the similarity of their habits and characteristics.
They are all fast fliers, good to eat, beautifully marked birds, fairly easy to identify even in bad light. Called the midgets of the webfoot world, they are the smallest of the ducks and travel farther north and south than most of their relatives.
They are hardy ducks, nesting over a wide area from northern Alaska to the Dakotas and Nebraska. When the frosty weather comes they scatter across the country from California and Mexico to the Carolinas. The European or greenwing teal nests in the Aleutian Islands clear to Greenland. The slightly larger blue-wing does not go as far north or south.
All species can be found in varying degrees from the Carolinas clear across Florida and the Gulf Coast during the winter months, with the bulk of the species wintering in Mexico, Panama, Caribbean Islands and several countries in South America.
How fast do teal fly? Ask any gunner and he will tell you that the teal is the fastest flier of the game, but the scientist disagrees, stating that the duck hunter is under the stress of optical illusion, and that due to the bird's small size it appears to be flying faster than, say, a mallard that is going full speed.
This probably accounts for so many missed birds. Their flight is seldom straight and true, but is broken constantly by dipping and swerving, making them a difficult target to follow and lead properly for a clean shot.
Many duck hunters will pass up the bigger species and wait for the teal to come over the blind, for here is the sportiest of birds and also, in the minds of many, far superior in taste to most others.
The young sportsman wishing to adorn his den with well-mounted specimens should certainly include a brace of flying teal, greenwings, especially. Their beautifully marked heads and wing decorations are examples of Mother Nature's finest art work.
Miniature decoys carved out of wood and authentically hand painted also make fine decorations and you don't have to kill a bird to make one.
The green-winged teal is quickly recognizable by its head markings. The rust-red, semi-crested head is graced by a velvet green strip beginning at the eye and extending to the back of the lower part of the crest. There is a dash of white in the form of a half-moon at the shoulder, noticeable particularly when the duck is standing at rest with wings folded in.
The wings are generally grey-brown, but the iridescent panel markings are green, fronted by a definitely marked pink stripe.
The blue-winged teal has a longer bill, and smaller grey-blue head that is not crested. A half-moon white marking comes between the eye and the bill. The large light blue first section of the wing is followed by a white band and then a rich green section of feathers, making it quite impossible to mistake it for any other species.
The cinnamon teal is cinnamon-colored all over except that the wing is just about the same as the blue-winged teal.
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