Sometimes known affectionately as the “gray duck” by hunters, gadwall are medium-sized dabbling ducks common across temperate areas worldwide. As their nickname indicates, both males and females have gray-brown to gray plumage that is less flashy than many other species.
Gadwall primarily nest in the Prairie Pothole Region of the north-central United States and Canada and, to a lesser extent, in southern portions of the boreal forest and prairie parklands. Gadwall migrate and winter across all four North American flyways and are one of the more ubiquitous species across the southern United States and Mexico.
Gadwall nest on the ground in grasslands and on islands in wetlands. During migration and winter, flocks of gadwall will use a wide variety of wetland types, including flooded forests, seasonal emergent wetlands, deep open water, and flooded croplands. Historically, gadwall primarily used semi-permanent emergent marshes with interspersed open water and submersed and emergent vegetation, but they are now common in flooded agricultural fields, managed wetlands, and other types throughout their range. National wildlife refuges manage seasonal emergent wetlands and promote submersed aquatic vegetation for this species.
Gadwall are primarily herbivorous dabbling ducks, feeding on leaves and stems of submersed aquatic vegetation. During breeding season, they are known to eat more invertebrate food items such as snails and water beetles, but they are primarily herbivorous most of the year.
How you can help
You can help this species and other waterfowl by purchasing a Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp. The Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp is a nonprofit organization that supports promotion, preservation, sales, and better understanding of the Federal Duck Stamp’s conservation mission.
Subject matter experts
- Heath Hagy, Waterfowl Ecologist, email@example.com
Federal Register notices
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