Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris


Justification of Red List Category
This species appears to have suffered a rapid population decline, evidenced in its core wintering range, as a result of widespread and extensive habitat destruction. It therefore qualifies as Vulnerable. However, data are scarce and some birds may have relocated to alternative wintering sites. Apparent increases in Iraq and the western Mediterranean population probably reflect improved observer coverage rather than genuine changes. This population has suffered a long-term decline and widespread loss of habitat.

Population justification
The global population is estimated at c.55,000-61,000 individuals, based on estimates of 3,000-5,000 in the west Mediterranean and West Africa (T. Dodman in litt. 2002); 1,000 in the east Mediterranean; 5,000 in south Asia, and 46,000-50,000 individuals in south-western Asia (Wetlands International 2016).

Trend justification
Prior to the discovery of the large population in Iraq, the overall population trend was thought to be decreasing, although some populations are fluctuating and others have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2016). In Europe the population size is estimated to be decreasing by at least 10% in 21 years (three generations) (BirdLife International 2015).

Distribution and population

This species has a fragmented distribution in the western Mediterranean (SpainMoroccoAlgeriaTunisia, [and recently recorded breeding in Libya, Etayeb et al. 2014] wintering in north and sub-Saharan west Africa), the eastern Mediterranean (TurkeyIsraelJordanSyria, wintering south to Egypt) and western and southern Asia (AzerbaijanArmeniaRussia [where it is on the verge of extinction, Van Impe 2013], TurkmenistanUzbekistanTajikistanKazakhstanIraqIranAfghanistanPakistanIndia and China, wintering in Iran, Pakistan and north-west India) (Green 1996). Surveys in the winter of early 2010 recorded c.44,000 individuals in southern Iraq (Salim 2010), more than the previously estimated world population of 14,000-26,000 (in 2002). This may not represent a genuine population increase, but is perhaps more likely a product of the restoration of the marshes of southern Iraq since 2002, which has probably now resulted in the concentration in this area of most of the M. angustirostris population wintering in south-western Asia, combined with improved observer coverage. Prior to 1991, the estimated population was 34,000-40,000 birds. Numbers wintering in Iran have fallen from 25,000-30,000 (1985-1992) to c.5,000 in 1993 and c.3,700 in 1995(Delany et al. 1999). Estimates of a wintering population of 3,000 birds in 1997 (Green and El Hamzaoui 1998) and a count of 4,250 in Tunisia in 1999 (J. F. Bos and L. M. Gilissen in litt. 1999), suggest the western Mediterranean population is larger than previously thought. The European population (in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Italy, Russia, Spain, Canary Islands and Turkey) is estimated at 330-1,100 pairs, which equates to 650-2,300 mature individuals, with the majority of birds from Azerbaijan (300-1,000 pairs) (BirdLife International 2015).


Behaviour This species is dispersive and partially migratory (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It shows variable, nomadic movements and is capable of dispersal in search of suitable habitat at any time of year as changing conditions require (Scott and Rose 1996)  (Kear 2005, del Hoyo et al. 1992). There is a general tendency for a more southerly distribution during the non-breeding season and a more northerly distribution during the breeding season. It is highly gregarious post-breeding and during the non-breeding season when it occurs in large monospecific flocks (Kear 2005) of up to 2,000 individuals (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Green et al. 2002), and potentially >5,000 individuals (A. Green in litt. 2016). During the breeding season it is more dispersive, although paired birds often mix with conspecifics (Kear 2005). Nests are sometimes built in close proximity to one another, although they become increasingly spaced out as population density declines (Kear 2005, Green 2007). Nesting has been recorded from mid-April to late June, and broods from mid-April to mid-September (Kear 2005). The species exhibits drastic population fluctuations, partly in response to annual variations in rainfall. Habitat Breeding It is adapted to temporary, unpredictable, Mediterranean-type wetlands (Green 2000, 2007) and breeds in fairly dry, steppe-like areas on shallow freshwater, brackish or alkaline ponds with well vegetated shorelines (Green 1993), and rich emergent and submergent vegetation (Kear 2005). It also breeds on delta marshes where receding waters leave behind large areas of shallow water with abundant sedges and bulrushes (Johnsgard 1978). In addition it may use slow rivers and saline coastal lagoons, and man-made wetlands including fish-rearing ponds, small reservoirs and sewage farms (Green 1993, Y. Perlman in litt. 2013). Although it favours brackish wetlands, it tends to avoid waters of high salinity. Microhabitat requirements are strongly influenced by diet. Non-breeding It uses similar habitat during the non-breeding season, although may make more use of shallow, mixed zones of emergent and saltmarsh vegetation during the summer (Sebastián-González et al. 2013). Diet Diet varies considerably between seasons and sites and additionally with age. Diptera are an important component of the diet , especially before and during the breeding season. Small seeds become increasingly important after the breeding season with faeces of post-breeding birds in Turkey composed of 95% dry weight Scirpus seeds (Green and Sánchez 2003, Fuentes et al. 2004, Green and Selva 2000). Newly hatched chicks are highly dependent on emerging chironomids (Green 2000). Breeding site Nests are usually constructed on the ground at the water's edge, beneath a covering of vegetation (Kear 2005, Green 1993). They may also occur above water in Typha stands (Kear 2005) and are reported to have been found in the roofs of reed huts (Hawkes 1970, Kear 2005). Mean clutch size was recorded in Spain to be 11.8 (Green 1998).


Over 50% of suitable habitat may have been destroyed during the 20th century. Wetland drainage for agriculture occurs across its range, most significantly in Iraq where the species remains threatened by fluctuating water levels and local water shortages. Hydrological work has severely affected breeding sites in Tunisia, Turkey, Morocco and Spain. In Iraq, the species is also threatened by illegal hunting and persecution, exacerbated by it being the principal wildfowl target for hunters during the summer months (Salim 2010). Reed-cutting, reed-burning and grazing commonly reduce the amount of habitat for nesting. Pollution from agricultural, industrial and domestic sources is a threat at many sites. When breeding, it is vulnerable to shooting and egg collection. Further mortality results from birds caught in fishing nets and lead poisoning (Svanberg et al. 2006, Mateo et al. 2001). A lack of habitat following hot, dry summer months probably results in high juvenile and adult mortality post-breeding (Green 2000, 2007). Lack of water availability for the El Hondo reservoirs in Alicante have led to a major decline in Spain since 1998 (Ballesteros et al. 2008).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix I and II. EU Birds Directive Annex I. It is legally protected in Bulgaria, Israel, Morocco, Spain, Russia, Tunisia and Turkey. Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) project surveys were conducted in Iraq by Nature Iraq during 2005-2010, finding c.44,000 individuals in 2010 and resulting in the proposal of several KBAs which hold wintering and breeding populations to be designated as protected areas (Salim 2010). Awareness-raising efforts were carried out in Iraq including the production of posters and hosting of conferences and meetings with hunters and hunting societies by Nature Iraq (Salim 2010). Conservation programmes have been carried out in Spain. Survey and research projects have been carried out in Morocco and Turkey. An updated European action plan was published in 2008 (Iñigo et al. 2008).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct regular surveys and monitoring. Research its ecology. Protect habitat at all sites regularly holding the species. Prevent mortality from hunting and other causes. Increase public awareness.


39-42 cm. Small, grey-brown dabbling duck. Brownish body flecked with creamy-brown. Dark eye-patch and broad eye-stripe from eye to nape. No speculum. Elegant shape, slightly crested appearance and long neck and wings. Female slightly smaller. Characteristic low, slow flight. Similar spp. Pintail Anas acuta female is larger, lacks eye-patch and has scalloped flanks. Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina female is larger, has more extensive eye-patch and strong contrast between flight feathers and forewing. Voice Squeaking jeep uttered by displaying males. Otherwise relatively silent.


Text account compilers
Ashpole, J, Harding, M., Peet, N., Westrip, J., Malpas, L., Derhé, M., Ekstrom, J., Temple, H., Capper, D., Pilgrim, J.

Perlman, Y., Green, A., Bos, J., Gilissen, L., Hughes, B.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Marmaronetta angustirostris. Downloaded from on 30/06/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 30/06/2022.