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The Chestnut Teal is a small dabbling duck with a high forehead and rounded head. Males are distinctive, having a glossy green head, chestnut brown neck, breast and flanks, dark brown upper body and wings, and a black undertail with contrasting white patch. Females are mottled dark brown and grey, with a pale throat streaked brown and a dark eye stripe. In both sexes the eye is a deep red, the bill is blue-grey and the legs and feet are green-grey. The wings have a dark glossy green to purple speculum (panel) edged white and the underwing is brown, with white wing pits.
The Chestnut Teal is found on wetlands and estuaries in coastal regions, and is one of the few ducks able to tolerate high salinity waters, although it still needs fresh water for drinking. It will also use open freshwater lakes, reservoirs and sewage ponds during dry seasons. It mainly breeds in coastal areas, needing hollow trees in water or short grasslands near water for nesting, and it will readily take to suitable nest boxes
Chestnut Teals, like most waterbirds, have suffered from wetland modifications such as drainage, increased salinity, grazing, clearing and burning. In coastal areas, their preferred estuary and inlet habitats are threatened by increased development, however their ready adoption of nest boxes is promising. In areas where hunting is permitted, they are widely hunted, but can find refuge in sanctuaries, and they represent a low proportion of the total shooting 'harvest' for south-eastern Australia. The introduced Fox is a major predator, eating eggs, young and adults.