Madagascar teal (Anas bernieri)

Also known as: Bernier’s teal
French: Canard de Bernier, Sarcelle de Bernier, Sarcelle de Madagascar, Sarcelle malgache de Bernier
Spanish: Cerceta de Madagascar, Cerceta Malgache, Pato de Bernier
GenusAnas (1)
SizeLength: 40 - 45 cm (2)

The Madagascar teal is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

The Endangered Madagascar teal is a small, fairly delicate looking duck (4). The two sexes are very similar in appearance and the entire plumage is a uniform light reddish-brown. The throat and chin are buff coloured and the bill is pinkish-grey. The wing has a black patch known as the speculum or mirror, which is bordered with white (5).

As the English name suggests, this duck is endemic to Madagascar, where it is restricted to a narrow strip along the west coast and far northeast of the island. The very small population is fragmented and declining (2).

Madagascar teals occur in wetland habitats. Habitat use changes with the season; in the dry season they are found mainly in shallow open bodies of water where there is little or no vegetation, but they also occur on sand bars in rivers, at the edges of mangrove forests and in estuaries. During the wet season when they nest, they prefer flooded mangrove forests (5).

This species tends to occur in small groups (2), which feed during the day and night, but are most active at dawn and dusk (4). The Madagascar teal feeds on invertebrates and plant matter whilst wading, sifting through the water with its bill (5).

Pair formation and breeding in Madagascar teals occurs during the wet season (from December to March). Nesting occurs in cavities in tree trunks, particularly in black mangrove trees. Madagascar teal pairs are monogamous and very territorial, defending their nesting site aggressively against intruders. About six eggs are laid, which hatch after around four weeks. After a further six weeks the chicks will have developed adult plumage and will begin to fly (5).

The Madagascar teal is threatened throughout its range (2), largely by the massive destruction of wetland habitats that has occurred in Madagascar (4). Conversion of shallow water bodies, required by this species in the dry season, to rice cultivation has been rife on the west coast of Madagascar, and today, mangroves are in demand for prawn pond construction and timber extraction, both of which result in an increase in hunting for food (2) (5).

The Madagascar teal is listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, which means that it faces a high risk of extinction in the wild (1). International trade in the species is controlled by its listing under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (3). The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust initiated a captive breeding programme for this species in 1993. This programme has had great success and shed light on certain details of the life-cycle and behaviour of this elusive and shy duck. However, until major steps are taken to protect the remaining habitat of the species in the wild, reintroduction measures will be unlikely. Community education programmes and habitat protection are essential if this desperately threatened duck is to survive (4).

For more information on the Madagascar teal see:

Authenticated (05/09/08) by Dr. H. Glyn Young, Conservation Biologist, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

  1. IUCN Red List (July, 2008)
  2. BirdLife International (September, 2008)
  3. CITES (March, 2004)
  4. Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (March, 2004)
  5. Kear, J. (2005) Ducks, Geese and Swans. Oxford University Press, Oxford.