Formerly placed in the genus Anas, the Hottentot Teal is the ancestor of Puna Teal Spatula puna, from which Silver Teal S. versicolor evolved. All three are sometimes placed together in the genus Punanetta. The current genus, Spatula, includes Garganey S. querquedula, Blue-winged S.discors and Cinnamon Teals S. cyanoptera and the Shovelers.
The tiny Hottentot Teal is the smallest of all the dabbling ducks. Widespread on the savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar, it favours shallow freshwater pools, lakes and marshes. This is the African counterpart of the closely related Silver Teal S. versicolor of South America, and is similar in appearance with its dark crown and pale sides to the head, however its cheeks have a distinctive dark smudge. The sexes are similar, though the duck is slightly duller, and like almost all southern hemisphere dabbling ducks, there is no eclipse plumage.
Hottentot Teal are well established in wildfowl collections and have proved themselves to be surprisingly hardy, especially considering that most of their extensive African range is within the tropics.
The Hottentot Teal likes to lay her clutch of six to nine eggs close to the water’s edge. Incubation is 25 to 27 days. The ducklings are tiny, but otherwise easy to rear, given enough heat. Because of their small size, these dainty ducks are especially vulnerable to rats and other predators. They can surprise you with clutches at the very extremes of the usual breeding season in Britain.