- Minnesota Breeding Bird Distribution
- Breeding Habitat
- Population Abundance
- Literature Cited
A regular breeding resident and migrant; occasionally reported during the winter months at scattered locations, principally in southern Minnesota. The Green-winged Teal was an uncommon species during the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas (MNBBA).
A boreal-nesting species found throughout Alaska, Canada, and the northern United States, from northern California east through the Great Lakes and New England. The core of the Green-winged Teal’s breeding range is in northwestern Canada and Alaska. Within the region sampled by the federal Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), the species is most abundant in south-central Alberta, Saskatchewan, and northern North Dakota (Figure 1).
A game species, the Green-winged Teal is assigned a Moderate Continental Priority by the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. Partners in Flight assigned it a Continental Concern Score of 8/20.
A year-round resident in portions of western North America; elsewhere the Green-winged Teal is a medium-distance migrant that winters along the Pacific coast, in the southern United States, the Caribbean islands, and Mexico.
A dabbler feeding primarily on aquatic vegetation, and grasses and sedges on mud flats and in shallow water; also consumes aquatic invertebrates and occasionally waste grains.
The Green-winged Teal has always been a common spring and fall migrant in Minnesota but has had a spotty nesting history. In the late 1800s, Hatch (1892) reported it was a frequent breeder in Hennepin County, and Tom Miller, a hunting guide at Heron Lake in Jackson County, reported he found a nest at the lake in 1888 (Roberts 1932). By the early 1900s, however, when Roberts wrote his two-volume book on the birds of Minnesota, there were no nesting records since Hatch’s and Miller’s accounts in the late 1800s. Nevertheless, pairs were observed during the summer months at a variety of widespread locations, ranging from Jackson County in the south, to Kittson County in the north, and east to Isanti County, leading Roberts to suspect that the bird might still be nesting in the state.
When Green and Janssen wrote their account of the species in 1975, they described the Green-winged Teal as a summer resident throughout the state but one of Minnesota’s rarest breeding ducks. Nesting had been documented in 14 wide-ranging counties, including Marshall and Polk in the northwest, Nobles and Yellow Medicine in the southwest, Rice and Wabasha in the southeast, and Hennepin and Washington in east-central Minnesota. Several years later, Janssen (1987) noted that “scattered individuals or pairs can be found in almost any part of the state during the breeding season.” He identified 9 counties where nesting had been documented since 1970: Aitkin, Anoka, Beltrami, Big Stone, Clearwater, Lake, Roseau, Winona, and Wright. Eleven years later, Hertzel and Janssen (1998) added 3 more counties to the list: Crow Wing, Hennepin, and Marshall.
The Minnesota Biological Survey has reported 78 breeding season locations for the Green-winged Teal since the late 1980s. Widely scattered throughout the state, the species was notably absent from east-central and southeastern Minnesota. The largest number of breeding season locations was reported from Clearwater County in north-central Minnesota (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 2016).
During the MNBBA, participants reported 154 Green-winged Teal records in 2.8% (133/4,738) of the surveyed atlas blocks and in 3.0% (70/2,337) of the priority blocks. Breeding was confirmed in only 9 of the surveyed blocks (Figures 2 and 3; Table 1). Observations were reported from 47 of Minnesota’s 87 counties (2 counties, Hennepin and Rice, were included because of blocks that straddled these counties), and breeding was confirmed in 5 counties (Anoka, Lac qui Parle, Mahnomen, Marshall, and St. Louis). The majority of records for this boreal-nesting species were in the Laurentian Mixed Forest and Tallgrass Aspen Parklands Provinces; it was still largely absent from southeastern Minnesota. As is the case for so many of Minnesota’s waterfowl, Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge, Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area, and the surrounding wetlands in Marshall County are extremely important for Green-winged Teal. There also were scattered reports, including 1 breeding record, from the greater Twin Cities metropolitan region.
No longer among the rarest breeding ducks in Minnesota, the Green-winged Teal’s 133 atlas records were greater than those reported for seven other species: Bufflehead (27), Red-breasted Merganser (37), Lesser Scaup (49), Northern Pintail (55), American Wigeon (55), America Black Duck (73), and Canvasback (94). Although it is certainly more abundant today than in the late 1800s, the Green-winged Teal remains an uncommon nesting species in the state.
In his comprehensive overview of the species, Johnson (1995) noted that there were no documented changes in the species’ distribution. In Ontario, however, the species may have nested only in the far northern regions of the province historically but today can be found throughout the province (Cadman et al. 2007). In Manitoba, the Green-winged Teal is a common species throughout much of the province but is particularly abundant in the wetlands in the southwestern region, just north of the border with Minnesota (Bird Studies Canada 2017). Many atlas reports from states in the Upper Midwest and Great Plains comment on its widely scattered breeding locations, including Wisconsin (Cutright et al. 2006), Michigan (Chartier et al. 2013), and South Dakota (Drilling et al. 2016).
*Note that the definition of confirmed nesting of a species is different for Breeding Bird Atlas projects, including the definition used by the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas, compared with a more restrictive definition used by the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union. For details see the Data Methods Section.