Anas erythrorhyncha (Red-billed teal)

Rooibekeend [Afrikaans]; iDada (generic term for duck) [Zulu]; Siwoyo (generic term for duck) [Kwangali]; Letata (generic term for duck), Sefuli [South Sotho]; Dada, Sekwe (both are generic names for duck or goose) [Shona]; Sekwa (generic term for duck or goose) [Tsonga]; Sehudi (generic term for duck) [Tswana]; Roodbekpijlstaart [Dutch]; Canard bec rouge [French]; Rotschnabelente [German]; Marreco-de-bico-vermelho [Portuguese]

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Anas erythrorhyncha (Redbilled teal) Anas erythrorhyncha (Redbilled teal)

Red-billed teal, Milnerton Sewage Works, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]

Red-billed teal, Strandfontein Sewerage Works, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ]
Anas erythrorhyncha (Redbilled teal)

Red-billed teal, Strandfontein Sewerage Works, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ]

The Red-billed teal is the most common duck in South Africa, and is also one of the most common ducks in southern Africa. It lives in inland wetlands, artificial or natural, breeding in temporary pans and dams. It is nomadic, rapidly locating new temporary pans and vleis, rarely moving more than 250 km. It feeds mainly on seeds, with smaller quantities of invertebrates. The female builds the nest, which is a shallow hole, filled with grass and leaves. It lays 5-16 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female, for 25-27 days. The chicks leave the nest for the water as soon as they are dry, with the family group breaking up after about 3 weeks of being together, although the chicks are only capable of flight at 56 days old.

Records

Heaviest adult female to do
Heaviest adult male to do
Lightest adult female to do
Lightest adult male to do
Longest living 15 years 2 months
Longest distance travelled 2190 km

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from Ethiopia south, through southern DRC, Tanzania, Zambia and Angola to southern Africa. It is most abundant duck in South Africa, with a population of 500 000-1 000 000. It is also very common in Zimbabwe, northern Botswana and central Namibia. It generally prefers inland wetlands, which can be natural or artificial. It usually breeds in temporary pans and dams, with fringing emergent vegetation and grassland nearby.

Distribution of Red-billed teal in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project ( Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements

Nomadic, rapidly locating new temporary pans and vleis. It rarely moves more than 250 km, although distances of 2190 km have been recorded. It usually leaves Botswana in the dry season, especially if Lake Ngami is dry. Flocks often move to temporary pans and vleis to breed.

Predators and parasites

  • Predators
  • Parasites
    • Theromyzon cooperi (African duck leech)
    • Cloacotaenia megalops (Tape Worm)
    • Trichobilharzia (Schistosomes)
    • lice
      • Trinoton aculeatum
      • Trinoton querquedulae
      • Anatoceus icterodes
      • Anatoceus dentatis
      • Anticola crassicornis
      • Holomenopon
    • Rhinonyssus rhinolethrum (Nasal mite)

Food

It feeds mainly on seeds, with smaller quantities of animals. It usually forages in the early morning and early evening, normally by swimming with its head submerged, picking up food as it goes a long. It also up-ends dabbles and picks animals off vegetation. The following food items have been recorded its diet:

  • Plant seeds
    • Panicum shinzii (Land grass)
    • Paspalum scorbiculatum (Creeping paspalum)
    • Dactyloctenium aegyptium (Crowfoot)
    • Eriochloa stapfiana (Water grass)
    • Amaranthus (Pigweed)
    • Leersia (Swamp cut grass)
    • Digitaria (Finger cut grass)
    • Atriplex (Salt bush)
    • Ambrosia artemisifolia (Ragweed)
    • Schkuhria pinnata (Dwarf marigold)
    • Scirpus (Sedges)
    • Sleira (Sedges)
    • Persicaria lapathifolia (Spotted knotweed)
    • Polygonum aviculare (Knotweed)
    • Potamogeton (Pondweeds)
    • Potamogeton pectinatus (Sago pondweed)
    • crops
      • sunflower
      • wheat
      • maize
      • lucerne
  • Animals

Breeding

  • Monogamous, territorial solitary nester. The male is very protective of his territory, often fighting with other males and sometimes other species. Courtship is not particularly elaborate, with synchronised swimming, special calls and preening.
  • The female builds the nest, which is a shallow depression in dry ground, filled with grass and leaves and sometimes lined with feathers. It is usually placed in thick vegetation, such as grass, reeds, stunted scrub, often 100-200 m away from water.
  • Laying dates vary, but they usually peak from November-May.
  • It lays 5-16 eggs in successive mornings, usually before 09h00.
  • Incubation is done solely by the female for 25-27 days. She normally takes two 1-2 hour breaks a day, covering the eggs with grass to join the male in preening, bathing and feeding.
  • The chicks leave the nest for the water as soon as they are dry. They feed as a group, with the female protecting them from predators by pretending to be injured, so that the chicks can get under cover. The family group breaks up after about 3 weeks of being together, although the chicks are only capable of flight at 56 days old.

Threats

  • Not threatened, in fact one of the most common ducks in southern Africa. This is due to its ability to adapt to human interference, which it in fact benefited greatly from.

References

  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

 

 

 

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