Teal (Anas crecca)

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Male teal, side view
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Teal fact file

Teal description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderAnseriformes
FamilyAnatidae
GenusAnas

The teal (Anas crecca) is one of the smallest wild ducks in the UK. The drake (male) in breeding plumage is also one of the most handsome of birds. The body is pale grey, finely lined with darker striations on the underside, and slightly broader markings on the back and wings, with a cream chest patch featuring fine black spots. The head is a dark brick red, almost russet, boldly crossed by a broad bottle-green eye stripe lined with cream. Under the black and white patterned tail, there is a noticeable creamy-yellow patch, which is very conspicuous in flight. The female is typically mottled brown, as are the males after moulting when they are said to be in 'eclipse', and juveniles. Both sexes display a wing-bar in flight; this bar is dark green and black with a white flash in front of the other two colours. The drakes make a distinctive ringing whistle similar to that of the pintail but higher pitched, and thought by some to have inspired the common English name. The female teal makes a soft and high-pitched quack.

French
Sarcelle d'hiver.
Size
Wingspan: 53 - 59cm
Length: 34 - 38cm
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Teal biology

The courtship display of the drake teal involves the bird dipping the tip of its bill under the surface of the water, then whistling, arching its back and tipping its head back, while raising its wings across its back and cocking its tail. Like most ducks, female teals take sole responsibility for rearing the ducklings. The nest is constructed on dry ground on an upland moor, often amongst bracken or under gorse. The nest is lined with dried leaves and down from the female's breast. The eggs, laid in April or May, are greeny-buff and may number as many as ten. They hatch after three weeks of incubation and the duck leads them down to water as soon as the ducklings' down is dry. Teal feed on waterweed, insects and other water invertebrates.

Teal have been a quarry species for centuries as they are considered very good eating. Bones from the birds have been found in the Roman settlement of Silchester in Hampshire.

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Teal range

The teal has an extensive range, like the shoveler, across most of the world's northern latitudes. In the UK, the birds are found over most of the country in winter, but move to the northern upland areas during the breeding season.

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Teal habitat

Outside the breeding season, teal form large flocks on lakes and coastal bays. During the breeding season the birds choose brackish or freshwater lakes and ponds in upland wooded or forested areas.

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Teal status

The teal is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1). Receives general protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (as amended) in the UK. Included in the Birds of Conservation Concern Amber List (medium conservation concern).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Teal threats

Teal are not an uncommon duck, figures show that the north-western European populations have increased by a figure of 2.5 percent annually between 1967 and 1993, and have since levelled off.

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Teal conservation

It has been calculated that nearly 70,000 individual teal are present annually in the UK outside the breeding season. This represents about 17 percent of the global population for this species. The success of the teal is thought to be due in part to an increase in the available wetland habitat, much of this due to reclaimed mineral extraction sites. However, teal are susceptible to low winter temperatures, and will migrate south to escape bad conditions. This can influence population figures either way, depending on the prevailing weather.

Teal are one of the migratory bird species that are used to assess the designation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under the EC Birds Directive. One site that qualifies as an SPA, and which plays host to about 1.5 percent of the north-western Europe population for the birds, is the Lower Derwent Valley in the East Riding of Yorkshire. This site is one of the most important – and largest – examples of traditionally managed wetland in the UK, and is home to large numbers wildfowl and waders, as well as bitterns.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Find out more

For more information on the teal and other bird species:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Brackish
Slightly salty water, usually a mixture of salt and freshwater, such as that found in estuaries.
Incubation
The act of incubating eggs, that is, keeping them warm so that development is possible.
Invertebrates
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones), echinoderms, and others.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2011)  
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
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Image credit

Male teal, side view  
Male teal, side view

© Steve Knell / naturepl.com

Nature Picture Library
5a Great George Street
Bristol
BS1 5RR
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 117 911 4675
Fax: +44 (0) 117 911 4699
info@naturepl.com
http://www.naturepl.com

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Listen to the Teal

Male teal, side view
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Teal recordings by Gerrit Vyn and Randolph S. Little

© Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Macaulay Library
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
159 Sapsucker Woods Road
Ithaca
New York 14850
United States of America
Tel: +1 (607) 254-2404
Fax: +1 (607) 254-2439
Email: macaulaylibrary@cornell.edu
Website: www.birds.cornell.edu/MacaulayLibrary

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