A light marbled brown plumage, this species has a crest and dark eye-surround. This species has a length of 39-42cm and a wingspan of 63-70cm. Juveniles are similar but with more off-white blotches. In flight, the wings look pale without a marked pattern, and no speculum on the secondaries.
This duck formerly bred in large numbers in the Mediterranean region, but is now restricted to a few sites in southern Spain, northwest Africa and in Israel. In the east it survives in the Mesopotamian marshland in southern Iraq and in Iran, as well as isolated pockets in Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iraq and further to the east in western India and western China. Its breeding habitat is lowland where they lay their eggs in long grass or in high trees. They may lay 7 to 10 cream eggs. They are common in private collections but are a nervous and flighty bird. In some areas birds disperse from the breeding grounds, and have been encountered in the winter period in the Sahel zone, south of the Sahara. These are gregarious birds, at times even when nesting. Outside the breeding season flocks are often small, although large wintering flocks have been reported in some areas. The largest winter concentration known is in Khuzestan, Iran.
In 2011, a group of Iraqi ornithologists counted a single flock of the rare marbled teal on the lakes of the Iraqi marshes, numbering at least 40,000 birds.
These birds feed mainly in shallow water by dabbling or up-ending, occasionally diving. Little is known of their diet.
This bird is considered vulnerable due to a reduction in population caused by habitat destruction and hunting. It is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.
The scientific name, Marmaronetta angustirostris, comes from the Greek marmaros, marbled and netta, a duck, and Latin angustus, narrow or small and rostris billed.