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Duck of the Month - Gadwall

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Gadwall - Anas strepera

Like mallards, pintails, and shovelers, gadwall are Holarctic in distribution, found throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere. Today, the gadwall is flourishing.

The gadwall is a medium-sized dabbler with wings slightly narrower than those of a mallard, and both sexes are similar in color, though not identical.  In flight, the wings of a gadwall show less white than those of a wigeon with the white toward the rear of the wings instead of the front, as on a wigeon.  They appear slimmer than a mallard in flight, but not as slim as the pintail.  Like the wigeon, the gadwall’s white belly contrasts sharply with a dark chest.  Hens quack like a mallard, but softer, while drakes whistle and emit a geck-geck like vocalization.

Hen gadwall sport feathers typical of the dabblers – straw and brown colors in a camouflaging pattern.  Males tend to be grayer, with breast feathers of alternating white and black crescent lines (vermiculation).  Gadwall’s bills are narrower than those of mallards, and the hen’s bill is yellow-orange mottled with black spots.  The male’s bill is grey black.  They have steep foreheads, and males have distinctive black rumps.  Unlike other dabblers, gadwall lack the metallic speculums, and instead both sexes display a white speculum quite visible in flight.  It is bordered to the front by black, and the drake has a rusty chestnut patch forward of this, extending to the “wrist” of the wing.

Gadwall breed primarily in the Prairie Pothole Region and prairie parklands of north central North America, with just over one-third of the continental population found in the prairies of the Dakota’s and southern Saskatchewan.

The 2006 May Breeding population estimate of gadwall’s (2.8 ± 0.2 million) was 30 percent higher than last year’s and was 67 percent higher than the long-term average.


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