Hottentot Teal (Spatula hottentota) is a duck species endemic to Africa. Also known as the Blue-billed Teal, Hottentot Teal is a small dabbling duck with a dark brown cap or “crown” on its head that extend just below the eyes. This cap can look similar to that of the Red-billed Teal. Below the cap, the rest of the head is a light brown, followed by black-gray “sideburns” that become more separated as the plumage goes down to their chest. Hottentot Teal’s blue bills have a single black streak running from their face to the tip. Females closely resemble the males but can be differentiated by their lighter stomachs and display mottled flanks. Males have deep green specula that are cut diagonally by a black border and the tips are bright white. The rest of their wings are dark brown, and female’s wings are the same pattern that is slightly muted. The underside of their wings is mostly white with brown tips on the primaries, some secondaries, and lesser wing coverts.
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Hottentot Teal have a very large range that includes approximately 23 countries in Africa. They can either be residents (usually in West Africa and Madagascar) or migratory, which is attributed to changing water levels. This species can be found in shallow freshwater wetlands, lakes, and near swamps where they forage mostly for vegetation including seeds and fruit, and opportunistically consuming aquatic invertebrates such as mollusks, beetles, and fly larvae when they are abundant.
Hottentot’s have a long lifespan that can last up to twenty to thirty years and they become sexually mature early on at either one or two years old. Their nests are easy to distinguish as they will build tall platforms with reed stems and other plant matter. In proportion to their body size, hen Hottentot Teal producing surprisingly large eggs in clutches that range from four to eight.
HOTTENTOT TEAL. Final South Africa species in 2019 was this little gem. Another specialists that isn’t found throughout all habitats like the ubiquitous yellow-billed ducks and red-billed teal. The smallest duck in the region, hottentot teal and are tiny, no bigger than hen green-winged teal. They vaguely resemble South America’s silver teal, not nearly as colorful, but the blue scapulars are spectacular! We hunted them in shallow, ephemerally flooded pasture adjacent to permanent, reed-lined marsh with mucky bottom. That’s exactly the kind of habitat I’d have expected to find silver teal, too. A collector of experiences, I still tally species, sub-species, races. Excluding White-fronts, Cackler and Canada goose subs for now (becomes confusing), the hottentot teal represents Life List Species Number 111. And YES, we’re returning to South Africa regularly in upcoming years. Contact Ramsey Russell on Instagram at @ramseyrussellgetducks for real-time updates.