A Banner Year for Blue-Winged Teals

When the first person brought in

a few orphaned blue-winged teal ducklings several months ago, Anderson Humane’s Wildlife Center team was surprised. “We usually receive one or two a season, if any,” said Ashley Kendall, Director of Wildlife for Anderson Humane. Their surprise only grew when two more people brought in blue-winged teal ducklings they’d found, for a total of nine.

The wildlife team is no stranger to ducklings, usually receiving 300-500 mallard ducklings and about 20 wood ducklings each year. Most are presumed to be orphaned. But receiving this number of blue-winged teal duckling is rare. “While they are common nesters in our area, they are less frequently found by people since they are elusive nesters,” Ashley said.

“Some years, as with all species, they have a higher than normal population, due to natural population fluctuations, which may be a reason we received babies this year,” Ashley said, adding that higher temperatures and less rainfall this past spring may have affected the ducklings as well.

Regardless of the species of ducklings, ideally they should be with their mom. But, like many duck species, blue-winged teals nest in grassy areas and when they walk to find water, a car or predator can separate mom from her young. “Sometimes mom flies off to distract a predator from her babies,” Ashley said. In those cases, survival and reunion are rare.

When people find orphaned ducklings, they bring them to our Wildlife Center, where we care for them until they’re old enough to survive on their own. If you find ducklings, Ashley suggests first walking away and observing them for a while or covering them with a laundry basket to see if mom comes back. If she is still around, she’s the best one to care for her babies. If it’s clear she’s gone, call our Wildlife Center and arrange a drop-off.

“It’s always fun for us to have a new or rare species to care for,” Ashley said. The blue-winged teal ducklings look like mallards but are smaller and with a rich blue tint to some of their feathers that’s easiest to spot when they fly. They also eat more insects than other species of ducks and swim a bit differently. “They shake their little tail feathers,” Ashley said of watching them swim. “It’s adorable.”

When all nine blue-winged teal ducklings were old enough, the wildlife team released them near a pond on the Gray Willows Farm grounds. “Whatever the reason we got so many this year,” Ashley said, “we were happy to raise these beautiful ducks to release.”

Learn more about Anderson Humane’s Wildlife Center

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