The Hottentot Teal, also known as Spatula hottentota, is a dabbling duck species categorized under the genus Spatula. Endemic to the African continent, the Hottentot Teal was first described by English naturalist Thomas Campbell Eyton in 1838. The Hottentot Teal’s closest relatives include the Knob-billed Duck, Mallard, Indian spot-billed Duck, Baikal Teal, and Philippine Duck.
This dabbling duck species was initially categorized under the genus Anas as “Anas punctata.” However, the Hottentot Teal’s old scientific name caused confusion over type specimens. Today, Hottentot Teal is recognized as monotypic species with no subspecies being acknowledged.
The Hottentot Teal is considered as a species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorized the species as Least Concern. However, habitat degradation continues to be a threat to these ducks. Safeguarding wetland and waterside vegetation and controlling poaching are some efforts that will help maintain their population.
Its seven levels of scientific classification are as follows:
Species: S. hottentota
The physical characteristics of a Hottentot Teal
The Hottentot Teal is one of the smallest duck species and one of the smallest waterfowl species. An adult Hottentot Teal has a dark brown crown in contrast with its paler face, breast, throat, and sides, except for that dark thumb-shaped patch around the ear area. The back of its neck down to the breast, flanks, and abdomen are patterned with black spots that gradually appear less noticeable. Its posterior under tail coverts and underparts are vermiculated with black. Its tail, upper wing surface, and scapulars are dark brown to black in color, with the coverts giving off a greenish gloss. An iridescent green gloss appears on the secondaries. Its eyes are brown, the legs and feet are bluish grey, and the bill is light blue gray.
Meanwhile, an adult female Hottentot Teal has less contrasting facial markings. It has rounded scapulars, the under tail coverts are not vermiculated, and the wings are less colorful and glossy. Juveniles resemble female characteristics but appear duller throughout the body.
The distribution and habitat of Hottentot Teals
Hottentot Teals are endemic to Africa, particularly in Angola, Zambia, eastern Congo, Malawi, Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, South Africa, Rwanda, Burundi, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and Madagascar. They frequent habitats with abundant floating-leaf plants and fringe vegetations, especially in tropical eastern Africa. They occur in shallow fresh-water swamps, streams, marshes, small shallow lakes, and ponds with reeds and papyrus.
The behavior of a Hottentot Teal
The Hottentot Teals are not very vocal, making them inconspicuous most of the time. However, male Hottentot Teals give off high-pitched whistles that sound like a mechanic rattle while females respond with a nasal quack. Both sexes emit a series of clicking, harsh notes when disturbed, within a flock, or during flight.
Hottentot Teal populations in west Africa and Madagascar are sedentary, while those in other regions are partly migratory in response to changing water levels. The breeding habits of this species are rather undemonstrative. According to researches, pairings do not extend beyond the female’s incubation period, suggesting that breeding pairs are reestablished annually. The breeding season takes place during winter and summer, peaking during the latter season. Courtship displays happen all-year-round. A display is characterized by a female inciting a male by exhibiting lateral movements, to which a male will respond by turning the back of its head, swimming ahead, or drinking then burping.
The nests are built from well-hidden above water in reeds, drowned trees, or in Papyrus clumps. After copulation, the female will lay a cluster with six to eight eggs, which will be incubated for 25 to 27 days by the female alone. The male will watch over the female while incubating, but there are no signs that the male will share responsibility in brood rearing.
The diet of a Hottentot Teal
Hottentot Teals are omnivorous. However, their diet mainly consists of fruits, grass seeds, and other vegetable matter. They also feed on aquatic invertebrates like mollusks, water insects, crustaceans, fly larvae, and beetles if these matters are superabundant. These dabbling ducks prefer to feed at muddy edges, but they will also forage in flooded areas like rice paddies.
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