Grey teal Anas gracilis are small, plain coloured ducks. Unlike other Australian ducks, which to some degree are specialised in their habitats and/or feeding habits, the grey teal is a generalist whose only requirement is water and food in a fairly open place. As for food, grey teal will eat just about anything in or near water, though their favourite feeding habitat is in shallow water near the edge of the pool. They are dabbling ducks, which means they filter water through their beaks, taking out any living thing small enough and eating it. This usually means plankton, but includes algae, water insects and anything else small enough. They will also come onto land, graze a little, and eat seeds. When dabbling, ducks put their bills into the water (often nearly horizontally) and, by opening and closing their bills rapidly, suck in and out water and anything that’s in the water.
Grey teal are also one of the few Australian species of duck that quack, well, sort of. As has been mentioned elsewhere on this website in relation to ducks, relatively few duck species quack. We think of ducks as quacking only because the vast majority of our domestic ducks (which are descended from the wild Mallard) quack. Other domesticated species, such as the Muscovy (a type of Central and South American tree duck, called Muscovy only because they were imported by the Muscovy Company to England in the late 1500s), Mandarin Ducks and New Zealand Scaup don’t quack. Mallards Anas platyrhynchos belong to the genus Anas as do several Australian species, the Pacific Black Duck Anas superciliosa, Australasian Shovelers Anas rhynchotis, Chestnut Teal Anas castanea and Grey Teal Anas gracilis. It is ducks belonging to this species that quack (in various versions) but only the females. The males have a greater variety of different calls, usually quieter than the females, often husky or whispering. Grey teal females produce a rapid series of quacks, sometimes compared to a chuckle while the males peep or give a grunting whistle.
Grey teal are a mottled grey-brown species. Their body feathers are generally dark brown, heavily edged with pale brown. The tops of their heads are dark drown, fading to pale brown, grey or white through a white or cream throat to a speckled white or creamish breast. Like other Anas duck species, grey teal have metallic blue-green windows (speculums) in the lower wing. Like their close relative Chestnut Teal, they have a white patch in front of the speculum that is most commonly seen when the bird is in flight. They have small bright red eyes and a grey upper bill. Their ducklings are brown with pale grey and cream stripes and pale grey bellies. Grey teal have bred successfully in the Goulburn Wetlands and are the duck species most reliably present there throughout the year in varying water conditions.