Mareca strepera

A picture of a female and male gadwall pair
Image by Andrew Dunn on Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 2.0

Physical: Gadwalls are medium-sized ducks with a slender bill and steep forehead. Males have brown heads, a wavy pattern of brown and white on their chests, and a bold pattern of black, white, grey and brown over the rest of the body. Females are generally brown, and look very similar to female Mallards.

Habitat: Gadwalls migrate seasonally. In the summer they live in freshwater lakes, in prairies and mountain valleys. In the winter, they migrate to marshes, lakes, and estuaries. Their range covers central Canada, the southern coast of Alaska, the continental US, and Mexico.

Feeding: As dabbling ducks, Gadwall feed by tipping their body into the water and feeding on submerged vegetation while they float on the water’s surface. They can also eat molluscs, insects, crustaceans, and very rarely, small fish. If they’re feeding alongside other duck species, they can steal food from them. Gadwall ducklings feed mostly on insects before shifting to plants as they mature.

Breeding: Gadwall are seasonally monogamous. Pairs form in the fall, as males display their wings to attract females. Then in the spring, pairs will fly to scout out a good nest location. The female builds the nest on land in weeds or grassy vegetation. On average, they lay 8-11 white eggs, and two or more females may lay a clutch in the same nest. The female then incubates the eggs for 24-27 days.

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