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Teal Hunting in Texas

Teal are on the smaller end of ducks hunted in the Lone Star State, but they are a big deal to the waterfowl hunters. When it comes to teal hunting, Texas has one of the highest participation rates in the country.

Blue Winged Teal Texas Coast

In Texas, it is estimated that about a quarter of the 80,000 waterfowl hunters participate in the early teal season. While several other duck species have struggled due to drought and habitat loss, blue wing teal have been bolstering their numbers. This year teal numbers are 27% above the long-term average.

The Different Species of Teal in Texas and How to Tell Them Apart

Cinnamon Teal

Cinnamon teal males have a red eye, long dark-colored bill, and vivid brown-orange plumage. They also feature a brown back and white underwing. Female, immature, and non-breeding male are mostly rich, brownish overall. All adults have sky-blue patch in open wing, similar to other teal and shovelers.

These birds are among the least abundant dabbling ducks in North America, with breeding populations estimated at 100,000 to 300,000. While many of the water fowl species can be found anywhere, cinnamon teal are confined only to the central and western fly ways.

Blue-winged Teal

Blue wings offer hunters an early start to the season, as they typically come through Texas in September. However, they’re much more challenging to identify at this time because they haven’t fully plumed (in other words, they all look like hens until later in the season when they get their flight color). They’re small ducks that are most often found in shallow water marshes.

The drakes have a black bill and a dark-grey head with a white crescent patch. Their shoulder patches are baby blue, and their wing patches are white with green.

The hens are brown with a black bill. You can tell them apart from the drakes during the early season, but it’s tough when they’re in flight.

Green-winged Teal

Green wings typically come through during the regular season; however, you might encounter a few during the early teal season. They’re small ducks most often found in shallow water areas.

The drakes have a black bill and red head with green eye patches and green wing patches. The hens are brown with a black and orange bill and green wing patches. As the season progresses, it’s easy to identify between drakes and hens.

Texas Early Teal Season

The Texas early teal season exists because these small birds are the first to make the trip south. Their migration usually takes them to wintering grounds in Mexico and South America by the time the regular season opens in October or November. The leading theory on teal migration explains that adult males migrate first and females and young ducks make the trip shortly after.

Texas has always been just another stop on the teal’s fall migration, but biologists are seeing more of these birds staying through the winter.

With more teal hanging around throughout the regular season, hunters should expect them to be a more common part of their bag limit. Blue-wing teal are an adaptable species that go where the habitat is—including prairies and the Coast where there’s water on the landscape. While most teal end up on the Texas coast, they make stops on ponds, lakes, and rivers.

In the last decade, a larger percentage of teal have been staying in Texas, which seems to be related to climate change. Like other birds that have migrated into Texas, the teal doesn’t have to go as far south to find warmer winter temperatures.

With more young teal coming through the central flyway this year, hunters are more likely to find teal landing in their decoy spread.