Baikal teal (Anas formosa)

Spanish: Cerceta del Baikal
GenusAnas (1)
SizeLength: 39 – 43 cm (2)

The Baikal teal is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (3). It is also listed on Appendices I and II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention) (4) and on Appendix III of the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (5).

With such a bold and eye-catching head pattern, this teal is easily discernable from other dabbling duck species. Comprised of distinct patches of brown, green, white and black, the male’s head is much brighter than the female’s. Males also posses a dark-spotted pinkish breast, bluish-grey sides and black tail feathers. The shoulder feathers are particularly long and conspicuous, with streaks of chestnut-red, black and white. Females are plainer, and juveniles have dark blotches on the whitish underside. Males make a deep, chuckling wot-wot-wot sound and females emit a low quack (2).

The Baikal teal breeds in eastern Siberia, Russia, and journeys through Mongolia and North Korea to winter in Japan, South Korea and mainland China. In winter it is also occasionally seen in Taiwan and Hong Kong (2), with vagrants reaching as far west as the Iberian Peninsula and east to the USA (Alaska and California) (6).

During the breeding season the Baikal teal nests in open tussock meadows close to water, as well as in mossy bogs with stands of willows (Salix spp.) and larch (Larix spp.). Over winter, it can be found on freshwater lakes, rivers and reservoirs at night, and feeding on farmland through the day (2).

In areas south of the Arctic Circle, laying begins at the end of May, whereas further north the birds wait until June. Between four and ten eggs are laid, which take 24 to 25 days to hatch. Males and non-breeding females moult shortly after the eggs hatch, but females, who continue to care for the ducklings, begin their moult later, towards the end of July. The ducklings learn to fly by August, and become independent of the adults (7). In autumn and winter, the species forms large flocks which wheel about in spectacular patterns reminiscent of those formed by the common starling, Sturnus vulgaris (8).

The Baikal teal feeds mainly on seeds and grain, as well as water snails, algae and other water plants (2).

Intense trophy hunting caused the initial decline of this species, and is still considered a threat. The Baikal teal gathers in large flocks on wetlands, making it an easy target. In China and South Korea, this duck is also killed with poisoned grain. In both China and South Korea, however, the main cause of decline is now habitat loss, as wetlands are converted to agricultural land and developed into urban areas (2).

The Baikal teal is protected by national legislation in Russia, Mongolia, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and some provinces in mainland China. Some important teal populations occur within protected areas, such as Bolob Lake and Khanka Lake in Russia, and Katano duck pond in Japan. However, the law is poorly enforced, and declines continue. Plans to study the decline and to research the wintering status in China, as well as regulating the hunting of all duck species throughout China may help to prevent the continuation of this species’ decline. A management plan is being drafted for the wintering population of South Korea, and all range states will be urged to give the Baikal teal legal protection (2).

For further information on the Baikal teal see:

Authenticated (03/09/10) by Dr H. Glyn Young, Conservation Biologist, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2010)
  2. BirdLife International (March, 2005)
  3. CITES (March, 2005)
  4. Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (January, 2010)
  5. Council of Europe: Bern Convention (January, 2010)
  6. Kear, J. (2005) Ducks, Geese and Swans. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
  7. BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK. Available at:
  8. Birds of Korea (September, 2010)