Eurasian Teal

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Common Name: Eurasian or Common Teal
Scientific Name: Anas crecca

Size: 12.2-15.4 inches (31-39 cm); Wingspan: 20.5-23.2 inches (52-59 cm)

Habitat: Worldwide; breeds across northern Eurasia and mostly winters well south of its breeding range. In the milder climate of temperate Europe, the summer and winter ranges overlap.

In winter, there are high densities around the Mediterranean – including the entire Iberian Peninsula and extending west to Mauretania, on Japan and Taiwan, as well as in South Asia. Other important wintering locations include almost the entire length of the Nile Valley, the Near East and Persian Gulf region, the mountain ranges of northern Iran, and South Korea and continental East and Southeast Asia. More isolated wintering grounds are Lake Victoria, the Senegal River estuary, the swamps of the upper Congo River, the inland and sea deltas of the Niger River, and the central Indus River valley.

In the breeding season, it is a common inhabitant of sheltered freshwater wetlands with some tall vegetation, such as taiga bogs or small lakes and ponds with extensive reed beds. In winter, it is often seen in brackish waters and even in sheltered inlets and lagoons along the seashore.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 1,000,0000+/- adult individuals. Altogether, the Eurasian Teal is much less common than its American counterpart, though still very plentiful. Its numbers are mainly assessed by counts of wintering birds; some 750,000 are recorded annually around the Mediterranean and Black Seas, 250,000 in temperate Western Europe, and more than 110,000 in Japan. In 1990 and 1991, a more detailed census was undertaken, yielding over 210,000 birds wintering in Iran, some 109,000 in Pakistan, about 77,000 in Azerbaijan, some 37,000 in India, 28,000 in Israel, over 14,000 in Turkmenistan and almost 12,000 in Taiwan. It appears to be holding its own currently, with its slow decline of maybe 1–2% annually in the 1990s – presumably mainly due to drainage and pollution of wetlands – not warranting action other than continuing to monitor the population and possibly providing better protection for habitat on the wintering grounds.

The Eurasian Teal is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

Diet: In the breeding season, it eats mainly aquatic invertebrates, such as crustaceans, insects and their larvae, mollusks and worms. In winter, it shifts to a largely granivorous diet, feeding on seeds of aquatic plants and grasses, including sedges and grains. Diurnal throughout the breeding season, in winter they are often crepuscular or even nocturnal feeders.

It usually feeds by dabbling, upending or grazing and may submerge its head and on occasion, even dive to reach food. It is a highly gregarious duck outside the breeding season and can form large flocks.

Nesting: From a distance, the drakes in breeding plumage appear grey, with a dark head, a yellowish behind, and a white stripe running along the flanks. Their head and upper neck is chestnut, with a wide and iridescent dark green patch of half-moon- or teardrop-shape that starts immediately before the eye and arcs to the upper hind neck. The patch is bordered with thin yellowsh-white lines, and a single line of that color extends from the patch's forward end, curving along the base of the bill. The breast is buff with small round brown spots. The center of the belly is white, and the rest of the body plumage is mostly white with thin and dense blackish vermiculations, appearing medium grey even at a short distance. The outer scapular feathers are white, with a black border to the outer vanes, and form the white side-stripe when the bird is in resting position. The primary remiges are dark greyish brown; the speculum feathers are iridescent blackish-green with white tips, and form the speculum together with the yellowish-white tips of the larger upper-wing coverts (which are otherwise grey). The underwing is whitish, with grey remiges, dense dark spotting on the inner coverts and a dark leading edge. The tail and tail coverts are black, with a bright yellowish-buff triangular patch in the center of the coverts at each side.

Drake in Eclipse plumage: The drake looks more like the hen but is more uniform in color, with a dark head and vestigial facial markings.

The hen itself is yellowish-brown, somewhat darker on wings and back. It has a dark greyish-brown upper head, hind neck, eyestripe and feather pattern. The pattern is dense short streaks on the head and neck, and scaly spots on the rest of the body. The wings are colored similar to the drake's, but with brown instead of grey upper wing coverts that have less wide tips, and wider tips of the speculum feathers. The hen's rectrices have yellowish-white tips; the mid-belly is whitish with some dark streaking.

Immatures are colored much like hens, but have a stronger pattern. The downy young are colored like in other dabbling ducks: brown above and yellow below, with a yellow supercilium.

This is a noisy species. The male whistles cryc or creelycc, not loud but very clear and far-carrying. The female has a feeble keh or neeh quack.

Teal nest on the ground, near water and under cover. The pairs form in the winter and arrive on the breeding grounds together, starting around March. The breeding starts some weeks thereafter, not until May in the most northerly locations. The nest is a deep hollow lined with dry leaves and down feathers, built in dense vegetation near water. After the females have started laying eggs, the males leave them and move away for shorter or longer distances, assembling in flocks on particular lakes where they molt into eclipse plumage. They will usually encounter their offspring only in winter. The clutch may consist of 5–16 eggs. They are incubated for 21–23 days. The young leave the nest soon after hatching and are attended by the mother for about 25–30 days, after which they fledge.

Cool Facts: Since the Eurasian Teal is the only one of these small dabbling ducks in much of its range, it is often called simply the “Teal”. The blue-green color takes its name from this bird.

The North American Green-winged Teal (A. crecca carolinensis) was formerly (and sometimes is still) considered a subspecies of A. crecca. The Eurasian teal differ from the American by lacking the vertical white shoulder stripe and having a horizontal white stripe along the back instead. Eurasian teal show up casually each year along both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.

The maximum recorded lifespan for a Common Teal is over 27 years.

Found in Songbird Remix Waterfowl Volume I: Dabbling Ducks

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