Telling the difference in teal

tealsmittyThe question has been asked by many a duck hunter during early teal season: Why are we shooting only hens? 
 
Other hunters will usually explain to their friend that the teal aren’t in their late season breeding plumage yet. 
 
But even knowing that the birds aren’t all hens, how can you specifically tell the hens and drakes apart? 
 
“It’s pretty distinctive, actually,” said Todd Merendino, Ducks Unlimited conservation programs manager in Texas. “The males don’t have that big white crescent on their head yet, but on their wings the males will have a really predominant white stripe. The females don’t have that.”
 
Merendino said another hint to sexing early season teal are their legs, with males usually having more yellow-tinted legs, and the female’s being more gray.
 
“Most people will say ‘I shot four females,’ but typically the adult males will come down first, so chances are good really early on that you may be shooting all males,” he said. “As you get later on in September, you’ll start getting younger birds and adult females coming down; the last weekend, you might be shooting all hens.”
 
The final clue in telling the drakes and hens apart involves looking at their bills.
 
“Usually the hens will have some kind of black dots on their bill, while the male bills will be more solid,” Merendino said. “Typically, once they’re in hand, that’s the best cue, because there is definitely a very distinctive white stripe on the males.”

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