Today’s photograph is a double “T”–some teals (specifically blue-winged) and some turtles. The turtles might be a little harder to find, but they’re in the picture.
The male blue-winged teals (Spatula discors) have a bluish-gray head with a white crescent in front of the eye (and this only during the breeding season), and they also have dark speckling on their breast. They are migratory birds, and Oklahoma is within their migratory path (though the panhandle of Oklahoma and a little bit of the northern board with Kansas is also within their breeding area). I’m not use to seeing the males in all their colors—I’m use to the blue on their wings, but this is the first time that I’ve caught a picture of their blue-gray heads as well.
Some interesting facts:
They can winter as far south as South America, they have a small spot in Texas where they possibly can be found year round, and they are basically absent in California (with the exception of the bay area and the coast line).
Therefore these are some of the first birds to migrate in the fall, and some of the latest to migrate in the spring.
They seem to be a warm weather duck—they’re largely absent from most of North America in the cold months.
Their diet consists of mainly plant material, especially seeds of various grasses. Depending on the season, they may also eat snails and insects.
The young leave the nest within the first day foraging for their own food—though they don’t “leave-leave” the nest until they’re able to fly, which is about five to six weeks after hatching.
Ring-necked pheasants sometimes lay eggs in blue-winged teal nests.
The other member of the photograph is the red-eared slider (Trachemys script elegans). This is an semiaquatic turtle, that has become a popular pet turtle in the US. Since it has become so popular (and due to both intentional and unintentional releases), it is also listed as one of the world’s 100 most invasive species.
Though it is difficult to see in this picture the red marking along the ear (that gives them their name). So I’d mentioned that they are a popular pet—well with any pet, there are always issues such as biting and nipping. Turtles as they get older develop stronger jaws and if they bite—it is probably quite painful (luckily I’ve never been bitten by a turtle), and since they are known carriers of Salmonella bacteria—they could easily infect humans with Salmonella if they aren’t properly handled. This has caused them to be released in areas that they wouldn’t be found normally and therefore have become invasive in and are out competing native species.
It has been nice to see numerous sliders and other aquatic turtles this winter/spring at the lake, as the weather changes more and more—more and more species are going to be become vulnerable to the extremes (reptiles and amphibians, along with insects being at the forefront), and if we don’t work to help dial back the damage—they could be gone within a couple of decades if not sooner.
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