This species is essentially non-migratory, although it moves opportunistically with the rains. Like many southern ducks, the sexes are similar. It is very pale and mainly grey, with a browner back and pink on the bill (young birds lack the pink). The Cape Teal cannot be confused with any other duck in its range.
It is a thinly distributed but widespread duck, rarely seen in large groups except the moulting flocks, which may number up to 2,000.
This species feeds on aquatic plants and small creatures obtained by dabbling. The nest is on the ground under vegetation and near water.
This is a generally quiet species, except during mating displays. The breeding male has a clear whistle, whereas the female has a feeble "quack".
The Cape Teal is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.