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A photo of a Ringed Teal (Callonetta leucophrys), male
Ringed Teal, Male

Ringed Teal

Callonetta leucophrys

The Ringed Teal, Callonetta leucophrys, presents a striking palette of colors that remain vibrant throughout the year, eschewing the typical eclipse plumage seen in other species. The male, or drake, boasts a rich chestnut back, pale grey flanks, and a salmon-colored breast dotted with black. A distinctive black band extends from the crown to the nape. The female is adorned with an olive-brownish back and a head marked with white blotches and striations, while her chest and belly display a subtle penciled barring. Both sexes share a dark tail, a contrasting pale rump, and a notable white patch on the wing, with grey bills and pink legs and feet. These teals are relatively small, averaging 14–15 inches in length with a wingspan of about 28 inches, and weighing between 11–12 ounces. Their webbed toes, tipped with long, pointed claws, are uniquely adapted for perching on tree branches, a trait uncommon among waterfowl.

Identification Tips

To identify the Ringed Teal, look for the male's black headband and salmon breast, and the female's white-streaked head and barred underparts. The white wing patch is conspicuous in both sexes. Their specialized toes and claws may also be observed when the birds perch on branches.

Habitat

The Ringed Teal favors tropical, swampy forests and marshy clearings within well-wooded lowlands. They are also found around secluded pools and small streams, where the environment provides ample resources for their aquatic lifestyle.

Distribution

This species is native to South America, with breeding populations in north-west Argentina and Paraguay, and additional presences in Bolivia, Brazil, and Uruguay.

Behaviour

Ringed Teals form strong pair bonds, often lasting a single breeding season, though some may persist for life. Courtship involves preening, displaying the iridescent green speculum, and swimming in figure eights while vocalizing. They nest in tree cavities, with both sexes participating in incubation. Chicks are precocial and are raised and defended by both parents until fledging at around 50–55 days old. The species is capable of producing two broods per season.

Song & Calls

The Ringed Teal's vocalizations are distinctive, with the female emitting a cat-like "mee-oowing" and the male producing a prolonged "peewoo."

Breeding

Upon reaching sexual maturity, these teals engage in elaborate courtship rituals, leading to mating in water. Nesting occurs in hollow tree cavities, lined with down. Females lay 6-12 white eggs, incubated for approximately 29 days. The chicks hatch with down but rely on their parents for waterproofing oils until their own glands develop.

Diet and Feeding

As dabblers, Ringed Teals feed on aquatic plants, invertebrates, and available seeds near the water's surface. They may up-end to reach food but do not dive like other waterfowl species.

Conservation status

The Ringed Teal is currently classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, indicating a stable population without significant threats at this time.

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