Brown Teal

Brown Teal

Pāteke, Pateke

Anas chlorotis
Population size
Life Span
21 yrs
530-700 g
48 cm

The Brown teal is a species of dabbling duck native to New Zealand. Common in the early years of European colonization, the "brown duck" (as it had been often referred to) was heavily harvested as a food source. Its numbers quickly fell, especially in the South Island, and in 1921 they became fully protected. There are no distinctive differences between a male, female, and a juvenile Brown teal during the non-mating season. They all have a white ring around their eyes as well as a mottled brown color on their heads and throat. During the breeding season, the male will begin to change color, now having a green colored head, chestnut-colored breast, and a white stripe on each side of their body. They will sometimes also have a white clerical neckband. This does vary as some males do tend to be more colorful than others.


Brown teal occur on northern North Island (Northland, Great Barrier, and Little Barrier Islands and the Coromandel Peninsula) but also in predator-proof sanctuaries on the mainland such as Tawharanui Regional Park. These birds were once found in forested areas but now they inhabit wetlands, coastal streams, ponds, estuaries, and agricultural areas.



Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Brown teal are nocturnal ducks; during the day they usually stay hidden in the grass and overhanging vegetation, and at night forage in fields for worms and insects, or hunt small shellfish swimming in bodies of water. Brown teal belong to the family of dabbling ducks because they feed mainly at the water surface rather than by diving. Their legs are placed more towards the center of their bodies and they walk well on land. Brown teal are gregarious and communicate with each other using various calls; males produce soft whistles and pops, and females emit low quacks and growls.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Brown teal are omnivores. They feed mainly on aquatic invertebrates like insects and their larvae, or crustaceans and are quite fond of mollusks. Their diet also includes seeds of sedges, clover leaves, and leaves of various wetland plants.

Mating Habits

July-September but may occur year-round
27-30 days
1 year
4-8 eggs

Brown teal are monogamous and highly territorial. Pairs generally nest in late winter from July to September; however, breeding may occur throughout the year. Their nests are built in thick vegetation near water or under the shelter of large sedge, heavily lined with down. The female lays a clutch of 4 to 8 creamy-brown eggs and incubates them for 27-30 days. The male stays in his territory as a guard, aggressive to all other waterfowl. The ducklings fledge at 50-55 days after hatching but remain with their parents until the following breeding season.


Population threats

The Brown teal was once widespread on the New Zealand mainland, but it disappeared there due to introduced predators like cats, dogs, and rats, which easily preyed on this unwary, weakly flying bird. Other serious factors that caused its population decline include habitat loss, hunting, roadkill, droughts, and starvation.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total Brown teal population size is around 1,500-2,500 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are increasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • In Māori, the Brown teal is known as Pāteke. The use of the name 'Pateke' is now common and is specific for this particular species.
  • For many years the Brown teal had been considered to be a member of the same species with the flightless Auckland and Campbell teals.
  • Brown teal are not equipped to dive down several feet like their diving counterparts. The most prominent difference between dabbling ducks and divers is the size of the feet. A dabbling duck's feet are generally smaller because they do not need the extra propulsion to dive for their forage.
  • Another distinguishing characteristic of dabbling ducks when compared to diving ducks is the way in which they take flight when spooked or are on the move. Dabbling ducks spring straight up from the water, but diving ducks need to gain momentum to take off, so they must run across the water a short distance to gain flight.
  • When ducks sleep half of their brains is awake.
  • Ducks have an excellent vision and they see in color.
  • Duck eggshells have tiny holes, called pores that allow the egg to breathe. Each egg can have up to 7500 pores and they are mainly found at the blunt end of the egg.


1. Brown Teal on Wikipedia -
2. Brown Teal on The IUCN Red List site -

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