In addition to wood ducks, green-winged teal are likely to make an early arrival during North Carolina’s Oct. 5-8 seasaon.
Considered a small, acrobatic duck, they are a favorite among wing shooters and commonly taken alongside wood ducks, despite their preference to larger swamps and impoundments as well as coastal estuaries.
“I’ve looked at banding data for many, many years,” said Doug Howell, waterfowl biologist for the N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission. “The primary harvest during the October season is obviously wood ducks, but green-winged teal fall right in there as well.
“We derive most of our green-winged teal from eastern Canada, which is a shorter trip than the prairie pothole region. These birds will fly right down the eastern seaboard. However, those that we do get from the prairie potholes will tend to stay in the Piedmont.
“Teal use flooded areas and beaver swamps, but they’ll also use a wider variety of habitat than the wood duck — areas that have submerged vegetation with seed-producing plants.”
Green-winged teal numbers are at an all-time high, at an estimated 4.3 million birds. While their harvest in North Carolina pales in comparison to the wood duck, it’s a win-win situation for a hunter who can harvest both species and leave with a heavier bag.
Given the secretive nature of the wood duck, they are unlikely to be lured from a tight area where they feel safe. However, green-winged teal can be lured into a relatively confined area if the proper food source are available. Couple the hard-mast preference of the wood duck in the form of acorns or pine nuts with the ultra-shallow water ideal for growing the seeds of sedges, smartweeds, pondweeds and grasses that teal prefer, and you’ve got the best of both worlds. Teal also respond well to their replicas, so adding a few decoys will help. Flooded crop fields are excellent places to take teal, but they’re often too open for wood ducks.