If you are a fan of small, short-necked dabbling ducks, April-May is the time to be here, for three species of teal can now be found in the Greater Vancouver Area. The one to look for first, which you should have already done since it is the scarcest and tends to peak in numbers in late-April to mid-May, is the Cinnamon Teal. This is our rarest dabbler, and has the most southerly breeding range of the three (only in the southern third of the province). Migrating Cinnamon Teal can be seen in wet meadows with standing water, ditches, and sloughs.
If you go searching for Cinnamon Teal, you’re likely to find Blue-winged Teal too, and, depending on the site, perhaps all three species. An odd coincidence, the scientific name for Cinnamon Teal is Anas cyanoptera, which means “Blue-winged duck.” (Cyan is a blue-green mix, but more blue than green.) True, the duck does have a blue patch on its extended wing, but heck, it’s the cinnamon that should get top billing. Apparently someone didn’t know the Latin or Greek for that. More importantly, what name does that leave for the Blue-winged Teal?
Green-winged Teal, female & male, Burnaby Lake.
Our most common teal, found here year round but most common in late April as migrants move through, is the Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca. It breeds throughout the province. You can find it in the shallow water of marine and freshwater mudflats, including those of small lakes and ponds, where it forages for invertebrates and seeds of emergent vegetation.
Male Green-winged Teal, Garden City Park.
Which brings us back to teal number 3, the Blue-winged:
Blue-winged Teal, male & female, Terra Nova Rural Park.
See? Blue wing.
The peak in Blue-winged Teal numbers in this region is about now (last third of May). This species also nests throughout the province. Here they are seen at lake edges, in ponds, ditches and sloughs. Its Latin name (you didn’t think I wasn’t going to get back to that) is Anas discors, which means discordant duck. Rob Simbeck in South Carolina Wildlife describes its call as “a nasal bleat like you’d get blowing through a New Year’s Eve party favor without the curled paper.”
Poor duck, not only is its rightful scientific name usurped by the Cinnamon Teal, it’s stuck with an insult.
"Hmmph. We're outa here."
See? Blue wing.