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Gadwall

Mareca (Anas) strepera

Dabbling Ducks Family

Waterfowl Identification

 
Male Gadwall
male
Female Gadwall
female
Similar Waterfowl:
Female Pintail
Description:
Gadwalls are medium-sized ducks characterized by a general lack of bright coloration. Males are gray-brown, with a white belly, and a black rump. In flight, a white speculum and chestnut and black portions on the wing coverts are displayed. The bill is slate-gray and the legs and feet are yellow. Female gadwalls are similar to males, but have a mottled brown appearance, a yellowish bill with dark spots, and a smaller white speculum.
Typical Size:
The male and female average 21 inches in length and weigh 3 pounds. They have a wingspan of 33 inches.
Habitat:
Gadwall prefer the habitats of reservoirs, farm ponds, and coastal fresh and brackish marshes.
Breeding:
Gadwall breed near seasonal and semi-permanent wetlands, mainly in the shortgrass, tallgrass, and mixed prairie regions of the US and Canada. Substantial numbers also breed in wetland habitats of the Great Basin. Gadwall tend to begin breeding later than most ducks. Female gadwall nest in fields and meadows, and on islands and dikes in wetlands and lay an average of 7 to 12 eggs.
Diet:
Aquatic vegetation makes up the majority of the gadwall's diet. As a result, they are often found feeding far from the shoreline, in deeper water than most other dabbling ducks. Gadwall up-end to feed on leafy portions of pondweeds, naiad, widgeon grass, water milfoil, and algae and the seeds of pondweeds, smartweeds, bulrush, and spike rush. They also feed on aquatic invertebrates, such as crustaceans and midges.
Migration:
They are found throughout much of the intermountain west of North America, and most of Mexico. Gadwall are also distributed throughout the southern two-thirds of the USA in winter. They are often found in association with American wigeon and American coots.
Flyway Patterns:
The greatest concentrations of gadwall are found in the Central and Mississippi flyways.
Flight Formation:
Small compact flocks in a direct line. Flight is swift, strong and erratic. Speeds reach 70 MPH.
Voice:
The male has a reedy WHACK or shrill whistle and the female has a soft QUACK.

Gadwall Flight and Plumage Characteristics

This guide will help you recognize gadwall on the wing - it emphasizes their fall and winter plumage patterns as well as size, shape, and flight characteristics. Gadwalls (often called "gray ducks") are not too common anywhere but are most numerous in the Central Flyway. One of the earliest migrants, they are the only puddle ducks with a white speculum, which makes identification easier. With rapid wingbeats, they fly swiftly in small compact flocks, usually in a direct line. Drakes whistle and kack-kack and hens have a soft quack.

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