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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

ANIMAL TRACKER

Teal


* Japanese name: Kogamo
* Scientific name: Anas crecca crecca
* Description: A small, surface-feeding dabbling duck, the teal is 34- to 38-cm long and has a 58- to 64-cm wingspan. Males (known as drakes) have an orange-chestnut colored head with a large stripe of emerald green, trimmed with a thin thread of gold, from the eye to the back of the head. The chest is spotted gray, and the tail is yellow with a black edge. As usual, females are dull-looking, with mottled brown plumage that's much like the more familiar female mallard. Both sexes have bright-green wing patches that can be seen in flight, and this is why they are also known as green-winged teal. You may hear males emit a plaintive "prip-prip" whistle. And females? They quack.
* Where to find them: On lakes and ponds in Honshu and Hokkaido, and in wetlands and marsh areas. In the winter they migrate south and live on estuaries and coastal lagoons, or inland in large numbers where there is shelter and shallow water. Their nests are on the ground, but hard to find, as they are situated in thick bushes near ponds. Females lay eight to 11 eggs.
* Food: Seeds and small animals they can sift out of the shallows. This includes many invertebrates such as snails, worms and insect larvae.
* Special features: A cute little duck, for sure, but the teal has a rather unsavory side as well. The ducks form pair-bonds, but the drakes are not satisfied with one female duck. They search out other females, and use a variety of sneaky behaviors in order to have their way with them. Often, they will keep their eye on others around so they know when neighboring females are fertile. Then they will visit nesting sites and approach the targeted female directly. They even swim underwater, commando-style, and capture females. But here's the unsavory bit: Male ducks have a penis -- that doesn't sound so surprising, although most male birds don't have this organ -- and they use it to forcibly copulate with these other females. If you see a male teal swimming submarine-style toward a female, you can bet that's what he's up to.

PHOTO COURTESY OF BIO-IMAGE NET



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