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New Zealand Brown Teal Recovery Plan (2005 archive)

Anas chlorotis


An article by Neil Hayes, 2005




The New Zealand Brown Teal (Anas chlorotis) is a unique endemic species that was once widespread throughout New Zealand in very large numbers and was historically found in every type of New Zealand wetland. Before Europeans arrived the brown teal population is believed to have been in the millions, with a population spread from Northland to Southland – and to the Chatham Islands and to Stewart Island. Fossil research completed in 2002 has shown that brown teal were present in New Zealand 10,000 years ago. The recently established Brown Teal Conservation Trust believes that brown teal evolved from the very beginning of life in New Zealand.

Brown teal have many unique features that are not found in any other species of waterfowl, and it is these unique features that place brown teal in a class of their own. In these brief notes we’ll look at the background to this critically endangered duck and about what is being done to save the species from extinction.



Above: adult Brown teal (male) in Belgian private collection.



Above: a pair of adult Brown teals (male right) in German private collection.

Brown teal evolved in a landscape which contained vast tracts of every type of wetland and in an almost predator free environment, with only the Australasian Harrier (Circus approximans) to contend with. And whilst the destruction/modification of New Zealand wetlands, together with excessive hunting, has impacted heavily on brown teal survival, the greatest factor in the brown teals race towards extinction has been the importation and spread of feral cats, mustelids (ferrets, stoats and weasels), and rats. Coupled with the ever-increasing population growth of the harrier hawk, which has benefited from protection and forest clearance. In addition, both feral and domestic dogs have assisted the decline/demise of teal at a number of critically important sites.
In the early 1800’s brown teal were possibly the most abundant duck species in New Zealand and whilst the brown teal population declined steadily from the late 1800’s it accelerated from the 1950’s to a level, where over the past 15 years, numbers declined from a population of c2,500 to c1,200. And to a level where it is now one of the world’s most endangered species of waterfowl; perhaps the world’s fourth most endangered duck and in imminent danger of premature extinction - with the expected time for total extinction in the wild being 2015.

There is now clear, compelling, and conclusive evidence that the only way to save brown teal is to eliminate all predators at key sites, coupled with the need to ensure that there is an adequate food chain at these key sites, and with the whole programme being well supported by a soundly based captive breeding programme.

(Recalling that no waterfowl species has ever been saved from extinction without a captive breeding programme)



Above: adult Brown teal (male) in Belgian private collection.

For the last two decades serious brown teal supporters have promoted the philosophy that long-term predator control at key sites will, in the short-term, rapidly retard the decline, and in the medium-term teal populations will expand. In the long-term such activity, in association with habitat protection and management and a greatly enhanced captive breeding programme, we will eventually see brown teal off the endangered list. The successful survival of captive reared brown teal released on to a number of New Zealand’s predator free offshore islands confirms this philosophy.
In simple terms, you provide brown teal with good habitat and a protected environment and they live long and healthy lives – just as we have seen with captive brown teal, a number of which have lived for 16, 17 & 18 years, with the record being just over 24 years!


In 1882 Buller wrote “this elegant little duck is distributed all over the country, being met with in every inland lake and often in the deep freshwater streams which run into them, where the overhanging vegetation affords ready shelter and concealment”. Such a statement can only make brown teal decline an even greater disaster


Many environmental and ornithological experts have long promoted the philosophy that extinction is a biological certainty and is an intrinsic part of the evolution process, with natural causes being the main cause/route to extinction — earthquakes, eruptions, floods, massive natural environmental changes, competition for food, and so on. Historically this is, of course, very true, but in the past 100 years the path towards extinction has, for many bird species, undoubtedly been hastened by a massive growth in the world’s population and by our poor respect for the natural environment and for the world’s wild animals and birds, together with our generally abysmal understanding of the environment and how to successfully manage the world’s natural resources.
Nothing could be truer than with the New Zealand situation, where New Zealand comfortably holds the world record for having the highest number of endangered birds - none of which have become endangered by ‘natural causes‘. These species have become endangered by mans’ interference with nature - by introducing predators, by introducing competing bird life, by destroying habitat, by modifying/disturbing habitat, and by excessive hunting.
All of these accumulated factors have lead to the precarious state of many bird species in New Zealand, with brown teal suffering more than any other endemic New Zealand waterfowl species.

When coupled with an historic lack of understanding of brown teal ecology, natural history, habitat and food requirements, the effects of predation and hunting, there is little wonder that brown teal have been on a rapidly accelerating path towards extinction.

Extinction is permanent and there is no possibility of re-inventing brown teal once the species has disappeared.

However, with carefully directed and dedicated management, coupled with the technology now available, and with an increasing enthusiasm for retaining the remaining environment that we still have in New Zealand, which is undoubtedly still a quality environment compared to most other countries, brown teal and most of New Zealand’s endangered birds can be saved from what can only be described as ‘premature’ extinction.



Above: adult Brown teal (male) in Belgian private collection.


The unrelenting mainland expansion and spread of brown teal predators, wetland destruction, an increasing number of waterfowl hunters, coupled with New Zealand’s population growth, caused a gradual retrenchment of brown teal into areas relatively low in predator numbers and humans. But sadly, but surely, predators and humans expanded into these areas also. Today brown teal are mainly confined to two areas of the New Zealand mainland – a coastal area of some 40 kilometres between Whangarei and Russell in the Northland region, where, thanks to some major predator control work since 2001, teal numbers have risen from c250 to c450, and on Great Barrier Island, a large island in the Hauraki Gulf, where thanks to predator control the teal population has retarded its race towards extinction, with c800 now surviving.

In the critically important Northland area there are few duck hunters and a low population level, and we are already seeing considerable success in controlling predators in this area. On Great Barrier Island there is no duck hunting allowed and the are no mustelids or hedgehogs, habitat is still excellent, but there are huge numbers of feral cats and dogs, rats, plus excessive numbers of the native swamp hen – the Pukeko (Porphyrio porphyrio). The Pukeko is a well-known killer of ducklings in all areas of New Zealand.

As can be seen from our map, there are two other areas on the NZ mainland where brown teal are present in small numbers, with the Coromandel Peninsula site being well supported by the successful release of captive reared birds into an predator controlled environment. Approximately 60 brown teal have also been released onto predator-free offshore islands over the past decade, and where they survive and breed well, with the best example being Kapiti Island off the Wellington coast, where brown teal were first released in 1969 and which still has a self-sustaining population of brown teal.

The historical distribution of brown teal can be seen in the maps included in the Brown teal Conservation Trust’s management manual – NATURAL HISTORY, CAPTIVE MANAGEMENT & SURVIVAL OF THE NZ BROWN TEAL - copies of which are available by either post or email.


Besides being endemic/unique to the New Zealand landscape, it is mainly the behavioural features of brown teal, which set it apart from all other species of dabbling duck, and in a class of its own.

Brown teal have the unique and extraordinary tendency to hide in grass and overhanging vegetation for most of the day and whilst this behaviour has been generally described as ‘crepuscular’ it is now felt more appropriate to describe it as ‘nocturnal’.


In 1921 Herbert Guthrie-Smith in his classic book ‘TUTIRA’ was one of the first people to document the nocturnal behaviour of brown teal, stating “There during the hours of light he (being brown teal) hides in the dense covert and in deep shade, only at night time venturing out, but then showing himself strangely tame and fearless”. Guthrie-Smith also witnessed the decline of brown teal at Tutira in Hawkes Bay and commented at that time “It is not improbable that with more covert (cover) and better feed the numbers of brown duck may again revive”.


There is growing evidence to support the preposition that brown teal became largely nocturnal because of the aerial threat from the Australasian Harrier (Circus approximans). Some researchers have suggested that this trait actually goes back to the period when New Zealand had its own Giant Eagle (Harpagornis moorei).

Wild brown teal are incredibly active at night and spend hours searching in paddocks (fields) for worms and insects, or in estuaries for small shellfish.
They also seem to mostly enjoy themselves dissecting patches of cow dung and also sieving endlessly in muddy pools. This trait is very obvious with captive teal and a muddy area in an aviary is a priority amongst captive breeders.

Captive teal held in an aviary also spend most of their day hidden in whatever cover is available, but become very active at night.
Whilst brown teal are strong fliers they do not take readily to the air and seem to prefer to scuttle around the ground, both in the wild and in captivity. Whilst the erection of perches are always recommended in brown teal aviaries teal seldom use anything but a low level perch, and one they can jump to, rather than have to fly.

Outside the breeding season brown teal are highly gregarious, just like mallards, assembling in flocks at their traditional roost site. Where roost sites have been modified by man, or by nature, changes at the flock site have invariably lead to the decline of brown teal in that area. Unlike mallards brown teal do not adapt readily to change. It is believed that flock sites may well be a vital link in brown teal survival.

Another unique feature of brown teal is that when a pair bond has been established both male and female become the most vicious and murderous of all dabbling ducks. No other dabbling duck species display this feature.

In the wild, and in captivity brown teal, are superior parents compared to all other dabbling ducks, with the male actively ‘educating’ and nurturing his progeny right through to the flying stage. The degree of such male attentiveness is not found in any other species of dabbling duck.

Unlike most dabbling duck the pre-copulation behaviour of brown teal is unique and simplicity itself; head-pumping prior to copulation sometimes occurs, as does inciting by the female. Some ‘head-up-tail-up’ displays have been observed, but this is a rare occurrence. Post-copulatory behaviour is also uninspiring; a swim and wing-flap are the only two usual movements after copulation, but these movements are also unpredictable.

Nesting in the wild usually occurs in thick vegetation, well away from the roost, but close to water, and each pair defends its territory with vigour just as they do in captivity.

Yet another unique feature is that in a captive situation there is no possibility of retaining more than one pair of brown teal in an enclosure, whether it is an aviary or a fenced open pond. Only on ponds of at least c0.2 hectare will a pair of brown teal tolerate other species of waterfowl.

In small areas not only will a bonded pair of brown teal firstly kill all other brown they will then kill all other species of duck that dare to invade their territory. They have also been known to severely chastise both the NZ Paradise Shelduck (Tadorna variegata) and Black Swan (Cygnus atratus).

After the breeding season the majority of both adult and juvenile teal gather at the most popular flock site. Today flock sites are invariably situated in estuarine habitat, where the fresh water meets the salt water, but historically such sites would have included a vast array of wetlands. It is now believed that protection, enhancement, maintenance and protection from predators at current flock sites is essential to the very survival of brown teal.

At the flock site progeny of the year will, however, live quite happily together over a period of several months and it is not until the onset of the breeding season that aggravation amongst each other actually commences.

In captivity birds of the year, being held in a flock situation prior to release, will usually live quite amicably with other young teal for many months.
Experiments have been carried out to determine whether, in a captive situation, one brown teal male would serve two females. Such experiments have determined that this is not possible, but have resulted in a very strong pair bond being established with one of the surviving females!

It is generally believed that a successful breeding pair of wild brown teal are monogamous and even though a mated pair will flock with others after the moult a previously established pair will invariably cement their pairing more strongly.

When all wild brown teal have moulted, and all birds are fully flighted, they become very mallard-like in their flocking programme and they make their way to their favourite flock site. It is at the flock site where pair bonds are re-established and new pair bonds created.
Access to the annual flock site seems to be a critical part of successful pairings and a flock site could well be a vital part of brown teal survival.
Brown teal are very sedentary and are not known to travel far from their roost site, for either nesting or feeding.

Over the last fifty years such flock sites have been mainly in estuarine areas and mostly at the confluence of fresh and seawater, but as already mentioned, this was not always the case and brown teal were found in every pond, lake, swamp, river and major wetland in New Zealand.

But the most alarming feature of brown teal behaviour is the species vulnerability to predators – far more vulnerable than any other species of waterfowl.
Just like all New Zealand endemic species, brown teal, evolved in an almost totally free predator environment for millions of years, and have never adapted to a modern, and unnatural, environment full of predators.


For far too long learned ornithologists have attempted to relate the Chestnut Teal (Anas castanea) to brown teal, and whilst the two species may well have once been related (perhaps 100 million years ago – when New Zealand annexed itself from Australia!), our studies clearly show that brown teal are not now related in any way to chestnut teal.

The behaviour of brown teal (particularly their murderous and aggressive attitude), colour, body shape and size, wing shape and size, courtship, copulation, vocal sounds, vulnerability to predators, feeding patterns and behaviour, habitat usage/requirements, climbing ability, nocturnal habits, bill shape and size, breeding behaviour, male attentiveness towards progeny, egg shape/size and weight, a monogamous relationship, flocking behaviour, and clutch size are all quite different to chestnut teal – and to any other duck species.

In addition the downy young of brown teal display absolutely no resemblance in colour, size, or shape, to downy young of any other species.
Whilst there is some similarity between brown teal and the flightless Auckland and Campbell island teal their similarity and relationship also appears to have ended millions of years ago.

Today brown teal are totally different to the all other teal, with the only similarity being that they all have webbed feet!
Brown teal are most certainly unique amongst dabbling ducks!


Between 1968 and 1988 the NZ Wildlife Service, which became extinct in 1988 when the Department of Conservation was established, was active in protecting brown teal habitat in Northland and on Great Barrier Island and, in association with Ducks Unlimited (NZ), establishing a major brown teal captive breeding programme in 1976.

Between 1976 and 1991 Ducks Unlimited members reared well over 1,500 brown teal and released c1,200 of these into the wild. During this period a highly successful ‘natural pairing’ technique for establishing pairs of brown teal was developed. This was so successful that in a single season Ducks Unlimited participants reared a record 153 brown teal. Sadly, however, the reasons for the decline of wild brown teal were not addressed and whilst captive released birds showed great adaptability to the wild and survived for long periods they too declined in the face of huge numbers of predators, just like their wild relatives. It took until 2000 before anything serious was done about eliminating predators at key sites.

Prior to 1999 only one serious Dept of Conservation review of the recovery programme had taken place. This was in 1995 and, with the implementation of low-level predator control, there was a brief period when some progress was made towards at least delaying brown teal extinction.

Overall, however, the period 1990 to 2000 saw the recovery programme going steadily backwards, and eventually reached a point where the total wild population of brown teal had plummeted from c2,500 birds to c1,000 birds – c250 in Northland and c750 on Great Barrier Island, so that by 2000 brown teal had become one of the The reasons for such dramatic decline are well documented in the Brown Teal Conservation Trust’s management manual
By 1999 the disastrous state of the recovery programme became glaringly apparent when two individuals took it upon themselves to promote the plight of brown teal by appearing on New Zealand’s TV One 6pm News on a Sunday evening – ably assisted by some fine reporting from TV One reporter Heather Shiells, who clearly stated that when you provide brown teal with a protected environment and ample food they live to be 24 years of age! And that the recovery programme was really a very simple management exercise.

By 1999 the plight of the captive brown teal population also became apparent, with the numbers in captivity having plummeted, over the previous decade, from c140 birds to c30 birds, and the numbers being reared annually dropping from c130 to c30. The number of brown teal breeders also became in danger of premature extinction when, over the same period, their numbers plummeted from 39 to just 9!

Between the two individual instigators (Hayes F.N & Williams M.J) involved in promoting the plight of brown teal their experiences (and expertise) with brown teal amounted to over sixty years! Without their intervention brown teal would have likely been extinct within the time frame indicated earlier.
To add to the TV publicity numerous papers had been published during the 1980’ & 90’s documenting the brown teals’ accelerating path towards premature extinction.

So, having irrevocable evidence of the dramatic decline of brown teal in the wild and in captivity, together with the abysmal track record of the recovery programme, those within the Department of Conservation’s ‘corridors of power’ were ‘persuaded’ to investigate the brown teal recovery programme and in late 1999 instigated a complete review/Audit of the whole programme. In October 2000 the Audit findings were duly published.


The Audit was compiled over a nine-month period and 37 people were interviewed. The published report was seen as a valuable and vitally important document - and an essential ‘guide’ towards saving brown teal. And from 2000 onwards the recovery programme has been turned around from one of imminent disaster to one of imminent success. Large-scale predator control programmes were introduced at a number of critically important site in Northland and on Great Barrier island. One of the most spectacular successes was the elimination of 50 stoats in one month at one site in Northland, and between 2001 and the end of 2004 the Northland population had risen from c200 brown teal to c450.

In November 2004 the Brown teal Conservation Trust published a 5,000-word review Covering what progress had been made since the Audit. The review determined that excellent progress was being made and that with a little fine-tuning the recovery programme is destined to be successful. (Copies of the review are available from the BTCT for $15NZ including Air Post, or free by email)


Bearing in mind that no waterfowl has ever been saved from extinction without a major captive breeding component, this side of brown teal recovery almost totally disintegrated between 1991 and 2000, with the number of participants plummeting from 39 to just 9. (The reasons for this are quite distressing, but are fully documented in the BTCT’s manual).

The Audit reviewers appreciated the need for a major captive breeding programme and some progress has been made towards ensuring that sufficient numbers of brown teal are being reared in captivity each season - in order to establish new populations at predator-free sites and to ensure an all-important ‘safety factor’. In the words of the Audit - “You can never have too many brown teal in captivity”.

Since the Audit the captive breeding programme has been given a new impetus and new participants are steadily coming on stream. It is, however very unlikely that the captive breeding programme will ever come close to those very productive years from 1976 to 1991.

Fortunately once a pair of brown teal have been established by the ‘natural pairing’ technique they invariably become prolific and long-lived breeders.
The key ingredients to the historically success of the brown teal captive breeding programme were:

  • The natural selection technique which allows each brown teal to choose its own mate
  • The placement of each pair of naturally paired teal in their own specially designed aviary
  • Having the technical knowledge about captive food and captive habitat requirements
  • Removing progeny at an early stage to encourage birds to re-nest and to increase productivity
  • Removing the first clutch of eggs and incubating these by other means, therefore encouraging the female to re-nest
  • Leaving parents to rear at least one brood/season
  • The enthusiasm, dedication and considerable financial contribution from 39 brown teal breeders

Aviary requirements - General Principles for NZ participants

Aviary size for a pair of brown teal

The minimum recommended aviary size for a pair of brown teal is — 20 square metres, with, say, a width of 4 metres and a length of 5 metres, with a pond approximately 2 metres wide, 2.5 metres long and 0.3 metres deep, and with gradually sloping sides. Aviary height should be such that a person of average height can stand upright — around 1.9 metres.
For natural pairing/flock mating aviaries the size of the aviary needs to be far larger and should be at least 50 square metres, with at least two large ponds.

Once a pair of brown teal have established what appears to be a strong pair bond they need to be transferred to their own aviary, which must be a totally enclosed and secure facility, so that

  1. They cannot escape
  2. They are secure from aerial predators
  3. They are secure from the main ground predators — ferrets, cats and, stoats and as secure as possible from rats and mice
  4. They are relatively isolated from diseases, which can be spread by the animals listed above and by other birds, such as sparrows
  5. They are secure from interference from other waterfowl
  6. The need to pinion the captive birds is eliminated

Nesting Facilities And Structures
Captive brown teal will readily nest in artificial nesting boxes and there should be two nesting boxes in each aviary — one on the ground and one elevated.
An abundance of ground cover will also provide females with another choice of nesting site.
Nesting boxes should be positioned as far away as possible from the aviary entrance and hidden in cover and well protected from the elements.


Diet and Food Requirements — Adult Brown Teal
The general food requirements of adult brown teal are very much the same as for other captive waterfowl. Commercially available poultry pellets with 15 to 16% protein are ideal, widely used, readily available and contain all the necessary ingredients, including grit, to maintain the birds in good condition throughout the year.

Some breeders prefer to vary the diet by using a mixture of wheat and pellets for six months and then as the bird’s head towards breeding feed pellets only for the other six months. To add a bit of variety is a good idea, but many brown teal will breed at any time during the year the all year use of pellets is a must, even if mixed with wheat or barley. Some years ago overseas waterfowl aviculturists claimed that a diet of grain immediately prior to the breeding season assisted fertility, but it appears that this has not been tried in New Zealand.

Normal practice, however, is that from July, when the normal breeding pattern begins and onwards a slightly higher protein pellet, up to 20% is recommended, as this will give the female a ‘lift’ during egg production. Any higher protein level can produce problems for ducklings during hatching.
It is also beneficial to add other supplements to the general teal diet, such as, lettuce leaves and other green vegetables, worms and grass clippings. Duckweed (Lemna minor) can usually be obtained from local ponds; brown teal love this and will spend many hours devouring it. It can also be home grown very easily.

A garden compost heap is an excellent place for garden worms and a few shovel loads from the heap will also keep the birds very busy. Grit is an essential part of the diet of all waterfowl and must be available at all times. Shell grit or builders mix are suitable and widely used. It can be provided in a tray or simply spread on the floor of the aviary.As already mentioned, the main food supply must be in a hopper or tray and this must be well protected from the elements. Pellets and/are grain should never be placed on the floor of the aviary as unwanted bacteria can be produced by damp stagnant food.


Brown Teal Duckling Diet

The Hayes families long involvement with brown teal started in the early 1970’s and in 1974 our first pair of brown teal hatched five and reared them all. Not knowing how the male of the pair would react we kept him separate for a while, but on reintroducing him he was a perfect father. This pair were in their own aviary with the offspring, which for the first 3-4 weeks were reared on:


The yolk of two hard-boiled eggs chopped up into small pieces and then added in a small bowl with chick mash – and then and mixed together. We have used this diet ever since and have now reared well over 200 brown teal. We use the diet for just over three weeks, before gradually removing the egg and adding 16% protein pellets to the mash. Fresh water is, of course, essential, but all our aviaries have large duck ponds with a continual flow of water through them. At approximately one month we have found that lettuce leaves can be introduced and are a very popular.


Losing ducklings being reared by their parents is virtually unknown. The same diet is highly recommended when rearing brown teal artificially or with a bantam. But there is the added need to ensure that the ducklings cannot get wet. The feed tray for ducklings should be placed adjacent to drinking water, which must be fresh at all time. If a water font is used the water should be changed twice per day.


Cleanliness in the aviculture of all waterfowl is of paramount importance, and is a vital key to the successful propagation of brown teal and to their lifespan. Every effort must therefore be made to ensure that at all times clean and hygienic conditions are provided for the birds.

Where there is no running water into the pond, each pond should be scrubbed out, using a hard bristle broom, at least once per month and a copious amount of fresh water added weekly. Ponds fed by running water should be scrubbed out once every three months.

The open ground in the aviary should also be turned over at regular intervals of, say six months, and a good dosing of garden lime, plus some fresh earth or builders mix will help sweeten up the ground and eliminate smells. However, if an aviary has been built to the recommended size (20 metres square) fouling of the ground is not a serious problem.

Emphasis should also be placed on ensuring that any intrusion by mice, sparrows or rats is eliminated very quickly. These species can introduce disease, will eat the teals’ food, rats will kill ducklings and eat the teals’ eggs.

Traps for mice and rats can be placed outside the aviary, but if the problem becomes too severe external poison bait stations will need to be established. And as a last resort the teal in one aviary will need to be removed prior to placing poison in the aviary.

Commercially available poison bait stations should be used as most are designed to ensure that the rodents cannot carry the bait away. Poison bait in the form of small granules should be used as rats will carry large bait away, this can result in poison being taken to adjacent aviaries.

Once the poisoning campaign has reached a satisfactory conclusion the ground in the aviary must be thoroughly raked over and checked for granules of poison - before the teal are placed back in the aviary. Most rat poisons will kill brown teal.
In rural areas an external aviary trapping programme should be set up for trapping ferrets, stoats and feral cats.


Aviary Maintenance
Regular inspection of each aviary is essential and should be carried out every three months, to ensure that

  1. There are no holes in the netting
  2. The water overflow system is working
  3. The ground cover is fulfilling its purpose and not encroaching into areas where it is not wanted
  4. No rat holes have been dug and rats and mice have not invaded the aviary
  5. The teal are still alive (you may not have seen them for three months)
  6. The ponds are in good order and no cracks have appears. If cracks do appear they can be either plastered over, or filled with one of the commercial plastic sealants
  7. Undesirable weeds are not taking over
  8. Feed stations, shelters, perching platforms and nesting boxes are in good order and nesting boxes have nesting material in them

Prior to the onset of the breeding season the aviary should be re-checked to ensure no duckling hazards have been created.



The brown teal recovery programme has made excellent progress since the 2000 Audit and is now well on track, but we must never lose sight of the fact that it is likely to take 20-30 years to reach a point where the future of brown teal is assured, and that predator control programmes, habitat management and captive breeding must be ongoing indefinitely.

The input into predator control programmes and the results being obtained are impressive.
The results in the past 2-3 years confirm the Brown Teal Conservation Trust’s belief that given suitable and protected habitat brown teal will survive and breed very successfully. But to help ensure the long-term viability of the recovery programme a major private sponsor may be needed.
The new Brown Teal Recovery Team appears to be operating successfully and is well managed.

If the recovery efforts continue in the same manner, as in the past three years, the BTCT believes that during the next 2-3 years we will see brown teal numbers increasing dramatically.


The first brown teal to officially be exported from New Zealand arrived at London Zoo in 1934 and from this stock the Severn Wildfowl Trust (now the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust) received a female in 1949. Two pairs were sent direct to the Severn Wildfowl Trust from New Zealand in 1957. Early observations prompted Sir Peter Scott to say that he hoped New Zealanders were not of a similar nature to brown teal.

From these the first captive reared brown teal, outside New Zealand, were produced in 1960 when three brown teal were reared. Good numbers were reared from 1960 to the late 1970’s when a lack of new blood resulted in only three males surviving.

In 1979 the Hayes family sent two females to the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust under a joint NZ Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited NZ project.
Since then the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust has reared good numbers and pairs have been distributed to other WWT centres and to private aviculturists, in the UK, Germany and South Africa.

WWT’s latest centre, called “THE WETLAND CENTRE”, is situated in the heart of London, only 5 kilometres from Buckingham Palace. The Centre consists of nearly 50 hectares of quality waterfowl habitat; created from one of London’s disused water reservoirs. A visit there is a must and you can see brown teal, blue duck and NZ Scaup in the NZ enclosure.

Investigations in May 2002 revealed that one private aviculturist in the UK had reared ninety brown teal during a fifteen-year period — a very significant contribution. This breeder remains as enthusiastic as ever.

In 2004 the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust held sufficient numbers of brown teal in captivity to produce good number of progeny each year, but this population will undoubtedly be in need of an injection of new blood during the next five years.

With the present precarious state of the New Zealand teal population there is an urgent need for the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, zoos, wildlife parks, and private breeders in Europe to look towards expanding the captive brown teal population.
Brown teal outside New Zealand is really an intrinsic part of the species survival.


Brown teal are a unique and delightful species and must not be allowed to become extinct



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  • Thomson G.M. 1922 The Naturalisation of Animals & Plants in New Zealand. 1st Edition. Cambridge at the University Press
  • Todd F.S. 1996 Natural History of the Waterfowl. San Diego Natural History Museum, California
  • Weller M.W. 1974 Habitat selection and feeding patterns of Brown Teal on Great Barrier Island. Notornis: 21: 25-35
  • Williams M.J. 1969 Brown teal released on Kapiti Island Notornis 16: 61
  • Williams M.J. 2001 Productivity and survival within 2 declining populations of brown teal (Anas chlorotis) Notornis 48: 187-195
  • Worthy T.H. 2002 The fossil distribution of brown teal in New Zealand. Unpublished report to the Department of Conservation March 2002

Many of the papers shown here are available from

Please visit also www.brownteal.com 

More status information: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/160030002/0 

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