Lear's career as a natural history artist began by his making drawings of the animals owned by the Zoological Society of London for E.T. Bennett's The Gardens and menagerie of the Zoological Society delineated, 1830-1831. In 1830 Lear applied to the zoo's council for permission 'to make drawings of the Parrots belonging to the Society'. It was the publication of Illustrations of the family of Psittacidae, or parrots, which earned Lear immediate repect and recognition as a natural history draftsman. Lear had included two birds from Lord Stanley's collection in his monograph and it may have been this that inspired Lord Stanley to issue an open invitation for Lear to paint the birds and mammals in his museum and those living in the aviary and menageries at Knowsley. This invitation and the subsequent patronage of the 13th Earl of Derby was to prove the beginning of one of the most important and influential relationships in Lear's life.
The present drawing was possibly executed for T.C. Eyton's A Monograph of the Anatidae, or Duck Tribe, London, 1838, although no plates of Teal by Lear were included in the finished book.