Teal is our smallest common duck species, instantly recogniseable by the drake’s green face mask on a brown head. It is when seen in company with Mallards or other familiar duck species the tiny size of Teal becomes obvious.
Usually I only see them as winter visitors, arriving around early September. As is often the case with wintering waterfowl, they are still showing a lot of ‘eclipse’ moult plumage when they first arrive, becoming neater and more colourful by the day thereafter.
An immaculate drake Teal, sunlit in full breeding colours, is a gorgeous sight. Here is a truly wild duck, seldom seen scrounging bread like urban Mallards.
Usually seen on the coastal saltings or rural inland ponds, Teal is a shy duck, quick to take flight at the least disturbance. In taking flight, they have their own characteristic vertical take-off style which has earned them the collective names, a ‘spring’ or a ‘twist’ of Teal.
This athletic vertical flushing manner seems to delight wildlife artists,photographers and shooters equally. It is a style very reminiscent of Snipe,the small cryptic wader often flushed from waterside reeds and rushes.
Also similar to Snipe, I sometimes unexpectedly flush single or double Teal from flooded tyre ruts in wet pastures or straw stubble. Woodside ditches also seem to be a favoured habitat shared with snipe.
I suppose a good way to describe the Teal would be the ‘duck which thinks it is a Snipe.’!