Pateke drake - Brown teal - Anas aucklandica
Photographed at Travis Westland, Christchurch, New Zealand.
This photo actually hows two native species of teal. The very rare brown teal is the chestnut breated bird on the right, the mottled brown bird at rear is the very much more common tete (or grey teal).
Brown teal is one of three closely related species of teal in New Zealand. The other two being the flightless subantarctic Auckland teal and Campbell Island teal.
Once common throughout New Zealand, habitat destruction, especially swamp drainage and predation, have resulted in brown teal becoming one of our most nationally endangered species of waterfowl. Approximately 1300 birds were surviving nationwide in 1999 making it one of the rarest ducks in the world!
Recognition: About half the size of the common mallard duck, brown teal stand 48cm tall and weigh just over half a kilo as an adult. The male is slightly larger than the female. Brown teal have a warm brown plumage, with dark-brown mottling on the breast. Breeding males have a glossy green head, a narrow white collar, broad green and narrow white bands on the wings and a white flank patch. A distinctive feature of all brown teal is their blue-black bill and the narrow white ring around the eye. Their eyes are brown. Males give a soft whistle, and the female a low quack and growl.
Brown teal are often referred to as bush ducks, since they prefer stream and bushland habitats. They are reluctant flyers and are shallow divers, dabbling just below the surface for food. Their favourite food is invertebrates and they mainly feed in the evening or at night.
Breeding: Most brown teal breed from June to October but are able to breed at almost any time of the year.
They begin breeding at about 2 years of age and can lay clutches of up to 8 eggs. Brown teal build a bowl-shaped nest near water, under the cover of dense tussocks or ferns, constructed with grasses lined with down. The female incubates the eggs about 30 days while the drake guards the nest - they are strongly territorial during breeding. Chicks fledge at an age of about 2 months. Brown teal pairs generally have stable relationships. The oldest known teal in the wild lived over 6 years. The brown teal’s omnivorous diet, restricted annual range and mainly terrestrial lifestyle give it a unique ecological niche among waterfowl, somewhat akin to a wetland rodent, and it serves as a classic example of the influence of selective forces that operated on birds in pre-human New Zealand.