Gadwall Bio

Gadwalls (Anas Strepera) are a small duck species who live and breed in the United States and Canada. An average male Gadwall weighs in at 2.0 pounds, at a length of 21". An average female Gadwall is a meek 1.8 pounds, usually measuring about 19". Gadwalls lack in color, a male sporting gray-brown feathers, and females with a mottled brown appearance. In flight, black, chestnut, and white portions of the males' wings are shown. Males also have a slate-gray bill and yellow legs and feet, while females have a yellowish bill with dark spots. Female and male Gadwalls make different sounds, too, which, aside from their differentiating color patterns, is an easy way to tell them apart.

Gadwall breeding takes place in seasonal and semi-permanent wetlands in prairie dominated regions of the United States, Canada, and The Great Basin. Unlike most other duck species, Gadwalls tend to breed later. Nests are constructed in fields, meadows, and islands, and 7-12 eggs are laid on average by female Gadwalls at a time. Gadwalls have been breeding at an increasing rate within the past couple of years. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, the population of Gadwalls decreased, until the late 1980s, when the Gadwall population skyrocketed to record highs, continuing into recent years, with the most recent population estimate reaching nearly 3 million.

In the winter months, Gadwalls migrate near 2/3 of the Southern United States, where they reside in farm ponds, reservoirs, and coastal fresh and brackish marshes. Gadwalls can also be found as far North as the mountainous regions of the United States and as far South as Mexico and Guatemala. They feed on aquatic vegetation such as algae, wigeon grass, and pondweed. Their diet is minimal to this kind of vegetation only.

Some other interesting facts about Gadwalls are that they often snatch food from other ducks, giving them the nickname "pirates". Also, the oldest known Gadwall was 19 years old and 6 months. This particular Gadwall was banded in Saskatchewan in 1962, and he was later shot during duck season in Louisiana in 1981.

Gadwall Ducks, Central Park, NYC

Something I Found Interesting About the Gadwall

The thing I found most interesting about the Gadwall was how they migrate to such a widespread area during the winter months. While most other duck and bird species migrate to one specific area, or migrate relatively local to the region they mainly live in, the Gadwall migrates to high Northern and low Southern areas. Both have completely different types of weather patterns and climates, which surprised me that the Gadwall would travel to both areas considering they mainly prefer prairie dominated areas. Although there were many other facts about the Gadwall that I found interesting, this one was the main one that I focused on learning more about.