Teal

Anas crecca

34-38cm

Appearance

The teal is the smallest duck in Britain. It is compact with a short neck, and though the sexes differ, both of them display a green speculum, defined by white borders. The male has a chestnut head, and he has a yellow-bordered green patch through his eye – this patch extends to the back of his head. He has a finely marked grey body with a longways stripe and a spotty breast. His bill is dark grey and he has a black tail with a yellowish patch. The female is like a Mallard but smaller and more delicate, as well as more boldly marked. She is mottled grey-brown, has a dark crown and a small, mostly grey bill with a touch of yellow at the base. She has a section of green near the tips of her wings. Juvenile looks similar to female adults.

Habitat

Teals dwell near water, mostly in upland and northern parts of the region when nesting. They're a familiar sight in winter on estuaries, mudflats and inland wetlands. Breeding grounds are primarily wet moorland areas, bogs and marshes in upland areas, and other breeding sites may be in, or near to, woodland. During autumn and winter, it visits lakes, ponds, gravel pits, reservoirs and coastal lagoons.

Character

This is an agile, skittish bird; it can rise vertically from water if disturbed, and it's rapid in the air. When in flight, these birds twist and turn and their fast wingbeats and pointy wings may give the appearance of waders rather than wildfowl. Unless nesting, the Teal is usually found in small flocks.

Food

Mostly finds food in shallow water by pecking from the surface. It filters water through the bill or up-ends. Most commonly eats seeds of rushes, grasses and other plants such as pondweed, dock, birch and buttercup. Summer diet includes animals such as water snails, fly larvae, water beetles and worms.

Breeding

Pairs form during winter then make their way to breeding sites. Nesting begins in mid-April; in order to deter predators, Teal nest closer to the water's edge than any other duck species. The female incubates 8-11 eggs, and the male usually deserts at the start of this process. After 21 days the young hatch; they're able to feed themselves before long and are independent after about 30 days. They're able to breed at 1 year old.

Population

One of the most widely spread ducks in Britain, majority of Teal are migratory. Birds from Iceland, northern Europe and Russia arrive in Britain and Ireland during October and November and depart in March. Less than 2800 pairs nest in the UK and 1000 pairs in Ireland, and these numbers grow to approximately 220 000 in the UK and 45 000 in Ireland (together making 30-40% of European population).

Observation Tips

This bird is much more easily observed when not in breeding season, particularly in coastal areas.

Voice

A male's call is a ringing whistle that carries far: 'prip, prip'. Female's call is a fast, high-pitched yet gentle quacking.
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