Bio Facts: Teal, Marbled
The current global distribution of the marbled teal is fragmented, with major centers of distribution in the western Mediterranean and tropical Africa (Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Senegal, Mali, Nigeria and Chad), the eastern Mediterranean (Turkey, Israel, Egypt and Syria) and western and southern Asia (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russian Federation, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China). The first and last of these regional populations are found partly within the western Palearctic, while the second lies wholly within it. The movements that occur within and between these regional populations are very poorly understood and open to speculation.
Shallow, nutrient rich lakes and wetlands
From of a distance, this small ducks appear to be just plain brown, but when observed up close, you will the buff spots or “marbles” for which this species is named for. The sexes are similar, with hens having yellowish patch at the base of the bill. Males seem to have a larger head than hens, due to a crest that is used when courting hens. Both sexes lack the metallic wing speculum seen in other teal.
The very few data on diet indicate a mixture of invertebrates and plant material (seed, shoots, leaves, roots, tubers) being taken. Marbled Teal feed mainly by dabbling, with upending observed very occasionally. Feeding activity is concentrated in beds of submerged macrophytes when these are available. The filter in the bill is not very fine, suggesting that Marbled Teal do not feed on plankton.
Listed as vulnerable by the ICUN
They are generally found in pairs or small family groups. The Marbled Teal is migratory across its range in the sense that it undergoes frequent movements across national frontiers, but it is largely nomadic, making unpredictable, non-cyclical and opportunistic movements in relation to rainfall and flooding patterns that are themselves highly unpredictable over most of the range. There is a general migration southwards in winter, but the timing and extent of such movements varies considerably between years.
The mating system is monogamous, but is still poorly understood. Very few paired birds are observed in winter, and pairing occurs in early spring. The species is sexually monomorphic, and field observations in Spain suggest that males remain with females and their broods, playing a guarding role. The timing of nesting is variable; with 4–14 eggs laid from late April to the first half of July. Incubation takes 25–27 days. The time from hatching to fledging has not been recorded, but is probably 8–9 weeks. Brood amalgamation has often been observed, up to 32 ducklings having been recorded with one female. Communal nesting was formerly known.
Well adapted for water habitats. The bill helps this duck to pluck its food from the water. Winged and flighted, this bird often migrates to more suitable habitats for breeding or to find additional food sources.
This rare little Eurasian duck was considered one of the dabbling ducks for many years, but has since been moved into the group with the pochards, due to its display behavior and lack of a speculum.
There is some confusion as to the genus of this species. Some ornithologists believe that Marbled Teal are closer to diving ducks than to dabblers, and others feel the opposite.
If this bird hisses or quacks more than normal it is said that rain is on the way. If the bird lays any dun-colored eggs it should be destroyed, along with the eggs, according to a traditional English (UK) belief that indicates that misfortune will follow should this event happen. At this and any time hanging a duck upside down is asserted to assure that negative energies and spirits can fall from it.
Hunting, pollution and above all drainage are blamed for the extreme fragmentation of range and massive decline in numbers this century (total population currently put at 33,000 birds), the most serious current threat being the conversion of the southern Iraq marshes where many thousands of pairs may breed.