Disappearing ducks: Madagascar teal
There are only 1,500 Madagascar teal living in the wild. They look similar to a female Mallard found in the UK (Anas platyrhynchos), but are instead threatened with extinction. They were once one of the island’s most common inhabitants.
Less forest, less shrimp, less teal
The population of Madagascar teal has fallen rapidly due to habitat destruction of their preferred mangrove forests. Teal rely on these flooded swamps for invertebrates and plant material found in the water.
The forests are cut down for timber, fuel, and to create flooded (paddy) fields for cultivating rice, a nationally important crop. This habitat loss has, in turn, reduced the shrimp population that depends on the forests as ‘nursery beds’.
Shrimp are another nationally important crop and with smaller harvests, islanders are now hunting the Madagascar teal as an alternative food source. Unfortunately, the teal are calm around humans and fairly easy to catch.
An international conservation project is now trying to protect these endangered ducks, involving the Madagascar Government and overseas partners such as the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in Jersey. The Living Rainforest has two protected Madagascar teal which can often be seen walking around our Amazonica House.
Nesting in trees
Madagascar teals make their nest in tree cavities up to 5m high (16’). But this means the hatchlings have to fall from this height to leave the nest. Luckily, the youngsters are cushioned by a flexible cartilage, a ‘bouncy’ connective tissue that protects the chick before the bones have fully formed.
The ducklings are further protected by fiercely territorial parents who live away from other teal during breeding. The breeding pair nurse clutches of up to six eggs laid during the wet season early in the year. These eggs hatch within four weeks and the ducklings grow plumage after another six.
Look out for…
Two pairs of ringed teal (Callonetta leucophrys) that also live at The Living Rainforest. These colourful relatives are native to large stretches of rainforest in South America, including north-west Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Brazil.
At a glance
Northeast and west Madagascan wetlands. Madagascar is 250 miles from the east coast of Africa.
Invertebrates and plant materials, feeding mostly at dawn and dusk.
Length: 30-40cm (12-16’’)
IUCN conservation status
Endangered; their population is rapidly declining.
What does this mean?
The Living Rainforest is not responsible for content of external websites.
Subscribe to our newsletters
Enter your email address in the box provided to sign up for free email updates
About our charity
Learn more about the work done by The Trust for Sustainable Living... Read more