At the Zoo
You can find the marbled teal in the aviaries across from the chimpanzees.
- Males are called drakes, females are hens, and young are ducklings.
- Teals are good swimmers and divers. However, they rarely dive for food; instead, they dive to hide from a predator.
- These birds are mute, as they lack a voice box, but often communicate by clattering their bills loudly.
Marbled teals are medium-sized ducks with a large wingspan of about two feet. As their name suggests, they are light brown and speckled with white and cream. They have a slight crest along the back of their neck and dark eye patches. The bill is long and narrow. Males and females have a similar coloration. Chicks are darker brown and lack the marbled pattern.
Lifespan is 15 - 25 years.
Marbled teal are fragmented into three separate populations in southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. In both Africa and Europe they are distributed along the eastern and western Mediterranean. They generally inhabit brackish pools and marshes, but are also found along fresh water lakes and ponds.
They feed on insects, seeds, aquatic plants and aquatic invertebrates.
Marbled teal are usually seen in pairs or small groups, and sometimes in flocks during winter. They are monogamous and pair-bonds are strong over a single season. Pairs form during winter before birds begin to migrate toward breeding sites.
Nesting begins mid-April and lasts until late June throughout their range. 4-12 eggs are laid in a shallow depression near water. The male leaves the female while she is incubating, which lasts 25-27 days. Ducklings fledge around 55 days.
Status In The Wild
Marbled teal are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN. This species has suffered from rapid population decline as a result of widespread and extensive habitat destruction. Some studies suggest that these birds have lost up to 50% of their habitat in the last century. Losses are due to wetland drainage for agriculture, pollution, hunting, and lead poisoning. Thankfully these birds are protected locally through wildlife and migratory bird legislation.
What can you do to help marbled teals?
As with all birds, avoid disturbing nesting sites and obey local hunting laws. Spread the word about marbled teal conservation!