Grey Teal

Anas gracilis

Grey Teal. Photo: Kevin Williams

The “laughter” call of the female allows the presence of teal to be inferred before any ducks are seen. However, it is not always easy to distinguish Grey Teals from female Chestnut Teals when the males of the latter are not in breeding plumage. In fact, at first there was only one species and Grey Teals were taken to be female Chestnut Teals.

Grey Teal live on aquatic and shoreline vegetation, grasses and sedges, supplemented by aquatic invertebrates. Feeding is by dabbling, mud filtering and occasional dives.

Breeding can start as early as June and continue until February if conditions are suitable. Nests are formed in slight depressions in the ground among vegetation, or in tree hollows. Incubation is by the female only, who is guarded by the male. Second broods may be attempted in suitable conditions.

Grey Teal will disperse widely after good rainfall and will also move extensively in search of better habitats in times of drought.


Male and female Grey Teal are alike with the female slightly smaller and sometime with an eye slightly duller than the bright crimson eye of the male. The body colour is a uniform grey-brown and lighter edges to the feathers give them a scalloped appearance. The head is grey-brown. The cheeks and neck are whitish and this is the chief feature distinguishing Grey Teals from female Chestnut Teals in the field. They are also a lighter colour overall. The underwings have a dark leading edge and a white triangular “armpit”. The secondaries form a white wing bar on the upper wing with a trailing black speculum having a green sheen. The males lack an eclipse plumage. Juveniles are a duller version of the females but are more streaked on the lower breast and have brown rather than crimson eyes.

Where to find it

Grey Teal may be found on all types of wetlands and so can be found in suitable habitat throughout the wetter parts of South Australia. They tend to favour freshwater wetlands as compared to Chestnut Teal who prefer more saline environments.