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 Teal - Fact File
Anas crecca
Small numbers breed throughout most of Britain and Ireland, but most common as a winter visitor.
Breeds in wet moorland, heath pools, bogs etc. In winter occurs on lakes and ponds of all kinds, marshes and to a lesser extent on coasts, estuaries and mudflats.

Our smallest duck (only Garganey approches Teal in size). Male's chestnut and green head looks all dark at distance. Green and black speculum and white wing bar in flight.

36cm (14")


My earliest diaries record watching teal in the Yare Valley at Postwick. The dykes, often spilling over the marsh all winter, regularly attracted flights of 50 or more of these smallest of ducks.

I recalled those days when very recently visiting Buckenham. Nowadays, thanks to raised water levels achieved by the new owners (the RSPB), these marshes contain extensive shallow floods. This development attracts passage migrant waders, nesting lapwing and redshank together with winter wildfowl.

Well over 150 teal were either dozing on grassy banks or idly swimming to and fro. The drakes were immaculate, each displaying a bright chestnut head with a broad buff-edged green stripe contrasting with a prominent long white line on the wing and a yellow triangle under the tail.

To my surprise more teal appeared as if from nowhere, flying to and fro in a compact flock, turning and twisting with the precision of waders. Finally all began shooting down-wards at great speed. Nearing the water and with feet and tail thrust forward, each bird checked speed with widespread rapidly-fluttering wings.

Within moments of alighting the scene again changed. Half a dozen drakes commenced a communal nuptial display. A favoured duck, ready for admirers, was surrounded. The drakes constantly raised themselves in the water, each shooting up head and neck and then lowering them at once. And throughout the display a delightful tinkling chorus rang out incessantly.

Only very small numbers of teal are known to breed in Norfolk, but as a passage migrant — and as a winter visitor — teal are often abundant. As might be expected, Welney Wildfowl Refuge attracts the most impressive numbers. In 1996, totals included 1540 at Cley Marsh and 1000 at Cantley.

A large selection of teal ringing recoveries shows that in severe winters many head for France and Iberia. Otherwise the majority are resident. But teal ringed here one winter have been recovered during subsequent winters in south and south-east Europe and the Black Sea. One distinctly unusual individual marked at Pensthorpe Waterfowl Trust was reported eight months later at Vladimir in Russia having travelled at least 1660 miles.

The North American race known as the green-winged teal, showing a conspicuous vertical white stripe on the side of the breast, has been identified in Norfolk on 24 occasions since first being recorded at Cley in 1964

By Michael J. Seago

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Illustrations by Dave Nurney from - The Pocket Guide to the Birds Of Britain and North-West Europe By Chris Kightley and Steve Madge
© Pica Press and reproduced with kind permission.