FWS Focus

Overview

Characteristics
Overview

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.

Scientific Name

Anas strepera
Common Name
Gadwall
Kingdom

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Species

Identification Numbers

TSN:

Characteristics

Characteristic category

Life Cycle

Characteristics
Life Cycle

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.

Reproduction

Nests are made with grasses and lined with down. Females lay nine to 11 cream eggs.

Characteristic category

Physical Characteristics

Characteristics
Sound

Females make a nasally quack. Males Gadwall make short, deep “burps.”

Size & Shape

This medium sized duck is known as the gray duck as both males and females have gray-brown to gray plumage. The males have a black rump. 

MeasurementsLength: 18 to 23 in (46 to 57 cm)Wingspan: 33 in (84 cm)

Characteristic category

Habitat

Characteristics
Habitat

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.

Lake
Wetland
Characteristic category

Behavior

Characteristics
Behavior

Gadwalls are well-known for stealing food from American coots.

Characteristic category

Food

Characteristics
Food

Gadwall are primarily herbivorous dabbling ducks year-round, 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.

Geography

Characteristics
Range

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.

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