Living Bird Magazine
- ORDER: Anseriformes
- FAMILY: Anatidae
In a world where male ducks sport gleaming patches of green, red, or blue, the Gadwall’s understated elegance can make this common duck easy to overlook. Males are intricately patterned with gray, brown, and black; females resemble female Mallards, although with a thinner, darker bill. We don’t tend to think of ducks as pirates, but Gadwall often snatch food from diving ducks as they surface. This widespread, adaptable duck has dramatically increased in numbers in North America since the 1980s.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Look for Gadwall on small bodies of water with plenty of aquatic vegetation; Gadwall often feed in slightly deeper water than other dabbling ducks. They associate with many other duck species, and on a quick scan you may miss the males because of their subdued brown appearance—keep an eye out for their black rear ends, white wing-patch (formed by the inner secondary feathers), and intricately patterned, not streaked or spotted, plumage.
- Pato Friso (Spanish)
- Canard chipeau (French)
- Cool Facts
- Gadwall sometimes steal food from American Coots and from other ducks.
- Gadwall have increased in numbers since the 1980s, partly because of conservation of wetlands and adjacent uplands in their breeding habitat through the Conservation Reserve Program and the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. Their habit of nesting on islands within marshes gives them some protection from predators.
- Female Gadwall produce an egg a day while they are laying their 7–12-egg clutches. To meet their demand for protein during this stressful time, female Gadwall eat more invertebrates than males during this period—in addition to using reserves of nutrients they’ve stored in their bodies during the winter.
- The oldest known Gadwall was a male, and at least 19 years, 6 months old. He was banded in Saskatchewan in 1962 and shot during hunting season in Louisiana in 1981.