Auckland Islands teal (Anas aucklandica)
|Also known as:||Auckland Island flightless teal|
|Spanish:||Cerceta Alicorta de Auckland|
|Size||Male wingspan: 128 – 152 cm (2)|
Female wingspan: 105 – 137 cm (2)
Male weight: 500 - 620 g (2)
Female weight: 420 – 560 g (2)
Classified as Vulnerable (VU D1) on the IUCN Red List 2004 (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).
Endemic to the Auckland Islands group, as its common name suggests, this flightless duck is one of the smallest of the Australasian teals, with greatly reduced wings (4) (5). Indeed, as one of the few remaining flightless birds in the world, the Auckland Islands teal is a product of an island environment isolated from the rest of the world for more than 80 million years, and free from mammalian predators (4). The body and face are dark brown, with light and dark brown barring on the flanks and mottled chestnut tones on the breast (2) (6) (7). This cryptic colouration provides useful camouflage amongst the kelp fronds of their habitat (5). A fine white ring surrounds the eye, the bill is bluish-black, and the legs and feet slate grey. Breeding males possess an iridescent green sheen on the nape of their necks (2). Females are uniformly dark brown with a paler abdomen, and prominent white eye ring (2). Male calls are soft, high-pitched wheezy whistles, while females produce low quacks and growls (7).
The Auckland Islands teal is found in the Auckland Islands group of New Zealand, with permanent populations on Ewing, Enderby, Rose, Ocean, Adams, Disappointment and Dundas Islands. Formerly bred on Auckland Island itself, where records exist up until the 1940s (6).
Primarily found along sheltered coastlines, using dense coastal vegetation as nesting cover (6). May retreat 100 to 200 m up small streams or to kelp beds and coastal pools for daytime cover, but forage on the shorelines after dark (5) (6).
The Auckland Islands teal is mainly crepuscular to nocturnal (2), feeding on marine invertebrates, terrestrial amphipods, insect larvae and small molluscs in coastal pools or washed-up seaweed, and also on algae (6). Mated pairs travel and feed together (6) and maintain a territory (2), but may flock at traditional roosting sites when not feeding (7). During the breeding season, these flocks consist mainly of juveniles and non-paired adults (7). The breeding rate and annual productivity is low (6), with clutches of three to four eggs laid from late October, with the first broods appearing in December (2). The gestation period exceeds 30 days in the wild and is 30 to 35 days in captivity, with incubation performed by the female alone, while the male remains close and guards the female whilst feeding during nest relief. Both parents attend to and defend their young throughout the fledging period of 60 to 70 days and both sexes first breed at one year in captivity (2).
Introduced cats and pigs caused the extinction of this bird from its former stronghold on Auckland Island, thereby dramatically reducing its numbers. Total remaining population estimates vary between 600 and 2,000 individuals, with this population currently considered relatively stable (6), as the bird occupies multiple offshore islands and islets that lack predators (4). However, the accidental introduction of mammals to the remaining island populations could easily cause further local extinctions and is an ongoing concern. The spread of avian disease to these island populations is also considered a significant potential threat (6).
The Auckland Islands teal’s listing on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) prohibits its commercial trade across borders (6). The Auckland Islands are national nature reserves without human settlement (2). Cattle, rabbits and mice have been eradicated from Enderby Island, and rabbits from Rose Island, leaving all teal-inhabited islands free from introduced mammals. The eradication of pigs on Auckland Island is planned, paving the way for the bird’s possible reintroduction to the mainland. Although known to breed successfully in captivity, no dedicated captive breeding programme has been proposed. Thus, future conservation efforts need to concentrate on captive-breeding programmes, combined with further removal or control of predators on Auckland Island, to allow for viable future reintroductions (6). Re-establishment across its full former range would certainly help ensure the future survival and prosperity of this remarkable flightless bird.
For further information on the Auckland Islands teal see:
Williams, M. (2005) Auckland Island Teal Anas aucklandica Species Account. In: Kear, J. (Ed.) Ducks, Geese and Swans: Anseriformes (Bird Families of the World S.). Oxford University Press, Australia and New Zealand.
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- Amphipoda: order of crustaceans.
- Crepuscular: active at dawn and dusk.
- Endemic: a species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Nocturnal: active at night.
IUCN Red List (November, 2005)
- Williams, M. (2005) Auckland Island Teal Anas aucklandica Species Account. In: Kear, J. (Ed) Ducks, Geese and Swans: Anseriformes (Bird Families of the World S.). Oxford University Press, Australia and New Zealand.
CITES (November, 2005)
TerraNature (November, 2005)
Ocean Wanderers (November, 2005)
BirdLife International (November, 2005)
New Zealand Birds (November, 2005)