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Gadwall Anas strepera


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Gadwall, male
credit: Mdf/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Anatidae, Ducks and Geese view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE Has a buffy gray head and neck, with clear separation from the darker gray, finely patterned breast and flanks. Center of belly is white and vent is black, the latter a useful identification feature even at a distance. Note the dark bill and yellow legs. In eclipse plumage, male resembles an adult female. ADULT FEMALE Has mottled brown plumage with a grayish head. Note the yellow bill. White speculum can sometimes be glimpsed in feeding birds. JUVENILE Resembles an adult female.

Dimensions Length: 18-21" (46-53 cm)

Habitat Gadwalls are almost invariably associated with freshwater habitats, favoring shallow water where they can dabble (and if necessary upend) for water plants. Breeds extensively across central North America, particularly in prairie pools, and winters mainly south and west of breeding range, south to Central America. Numbers have increased in recent years, due largely to conservation measures aimed at improving breeding habitat.

Observation Tips Easiest to find in winter months, on large lakes and freshwater marshes.

Range New England, Mid-Atlantic, Eastern Canada, Southwest, Western Canada, California, Southeast, Great Lakes, Texas, Alaska, Florida, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains

Voice Male utters a croaking call and female utters a Mallard-like quack.

Discussion A familiar and rather understated dabbling duck. At a distance, the male's plumage simply looks gray and brown. However, at close range and in good light its beautifully intricate, vermiculate patterns become apparent. In flight, both sexes show white in the speculum, emphasized and defined by a black border; the extent of white is greatest in males, which also show chestnut on the inner wing. Sexes are dissimilar in plumage overall.