Photo: Claude Nadeau/Vireo

Gadwall

Anas strepera

In many of our dabbling ducks, the males have bright ornate patterns, while the females are plainly marked with brown and gray. In the Gadwall, even the male looks plain at a distance; only a close view reveals subtle but beautiful colors. Although it is widespread in North America (and in Europe and Asia as well), the Gadwall is most common on inland waters west of the Mississippi River.
Conservation status Settlement of the northern Great Plains may have reduced Gadwall numbers more than those of most ducks. Current populations vary substantially from year to year, but not in serious decline.
Family Ducks and Geese
Habitat Lakes, ponds, marshes. In summer mainly around fresh or alkaline lakes in prairie regions or western intermountain valleys where land is open, not forested; also locally in coastal marshes. In migration and winter on marshes, lakes, estuaries, but generally not on salt water.
In many of our dabbling ducks, the males have bright ornate patterns, while the females are plainly marked with brown and gray. In the Gadwall, even the male looks plain at a distance; only a close view reveals subtle but beautiful colors. Although it is widespread in North America (and in Europe and Asia as well), the Gadwall is most common on inland waters west of the Mississippi River.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male,breeding
  • adult female
  • juvenile
  • adult male, nonbreeding
  • adult male and female
  • adult male, nonbreeding
Feeding Behavior

forages mainly while swimming by taking items from surface or by dabbling with head submerged, sometimes by up-ending, occasionally by diving. Rather seldom forages on land.


Eggs

8-11, sometimes 5-13. White. 2 or more females sometimes lay in same nest. Incubation is by female only, 24-27 days. Young: leave nest shortly after hatching. Female leads young to water, where they find their own food; often seen on more open water than young of other dabbling ducks. Young are capable of flight 48-59 days after hatching.


Young

leave nest shortly after hatching. Female leads young to water, where they find their own food; often seen on more open water than young of other dabbling ducks. Young are capable of flight 48-59 days after hatching.

Diet

mostly plant material. Feeds mainly on aquatic plants. Compared to other dabbling ducks, eats more leaves and stems of these plants, fewer seeds. Also eats small numbers of mollusks, insects, crustaceans, rarely small fish. Very young ducklings eat many insects at first before shifting to more vegetarian diet.


Nesting

In one courtship display, male pulls head far back on shoulders and raises rear part of body out of water, with wingtips lifted to show off white patch in wing. Compared to most ducks, nesting begins rather late. Nest: female, accompanied by male, makes prospecting flights to seek site for nest. Site is usually near water, on dry land, surrounded by dense weeds or grass. Nest (built by female) is in a shallow depression, built of grasses, weeds, lined with down.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Migrates in flocks. Not a long-distance migrant, most wintering north of the tropics. Some southern breeders may be permanently resident.

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Migration

Migrates in flocks. Not a long-distance migrant, most wintering north of the tropics. Some southern breeders may be permanently resident.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Utters duck-like quack; also chatters and whistles.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Duck-like Birds Surface Feeding Ducks

Gadwall

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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