Chestnut teal are, as their name suggests, chestnut brown in colour. This species is sexually dimorphic, meaning males and females are different in appearance. The males have a metallic green head and a chestnut brown breast and abdomen with dark brown speckles. Their back, rump, wings and tail are dark brown in colour. The females are duller, being mostly brown with green flashes on their wings.
These birds inhabit coastal regions, preferring estuaries, lagoons and marshes to freshwater habitats. They do not migrate, but will disperse inland after the breeding season.
They nest in pairs or in groups, building their nests on the ground hidden in vegetation or in natural hollows, lining their nest with downy feathers from their own bodies. They can lay two or three clutches of 7 to 10 eggs a year, depending on the availability of food. The chicks are covered in pale brown down, with a white spot on the side of their rump.
This teal dabbles for food in shallow water, often forming large groups with other species. They search for small pieces of plant material, aquatic invertebrates and molluscs.
The chestnut teal is classed as Least Concern, but still has several threats. Like many species of aquatic bird habitat destruction is a problem, with a dramatic reduction in the availability of suitable nesting and feeding sites. They are also hunted as food, for sport and for the pet trade, which is having an effect on their wild numbers.