My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Gadwall, Anas strepera

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Gadwall, Anas strepera

The gadwall is a common and widespread duck of the family Anatidae.

The gadwall is 46–56 cm (18–22 in) long with a 78–90 cm (31–35 in) wingspan. The male is slightly larger than the female, weighing on average 990 g (35 oz) against her 850 g (30 oz). The breeding male is patterned grey, with a black rear end, light chestnut wings, and a brilliant white speculum, obvious in flight or at rest. In non-breeding (eclipse) plumage, the drake looks more like the female, but retains the male wing pattern, and is usually greyer above and has less orange on the bill.

The female is light brown, with plumage much like a female mallard. It can be distinguished from that species by the dark orange-edged bill, smaller size, the white speculum, and white belly. Both sexes go through two molts annually, following a juvenile molt.

The gadwall is a quieter duck, except during its courtship display. Females give a call similar to the quack of a female mallard but higher-pitched, transcribed as gag-ag-ag-ag. Males give a grunt, transcribed as nheck, and a whistle.

The gadwall breeds in the northern areas of Europe and Asia, and central North America. In North America, its breeding range lies along the Saint Lawrence River, through the Great Lakes, Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Dakotas, south to Kansas, west to California, and along coastal Pacific Canada and southern coastal Alaska. The range of this bird appears to be expanding into eastern North America. This dabbling duck is strongly migratory, and winters farther south than its breeding range, from coastal Alaska, south into Central America, and east into Idaho, Kansas, Ohio, Virginia, and then south all the way into Central America.

The gadwall is a bird of open wetlands, such as prairie or steppe lakes, wet grassland or marshes with dense fringing vegetation, and usually feeds by dabbling for plant food with head submerged. It nests on the ground, often some distance from water. It is not as gregarious as some dabbling ducks outside the breeding season and tends to form only small flocks. This is a fairly quiet species; the male has a hoarse whistling call, and the female has a Mallard-like quack. The young birds are fed insects at first, adults also eat some molluscs and insects during the nesting season.

On to my photos:

Male Gadwall, Anas strepera

Male Gadwall, Anas strepera

Female Gadwall, Anas strepera

Female Gadwall, Anas strepera

Female Gadwall, Anas strepera

Female Gadwall, Anas strepera

Male Gadwall, Anas strepera

Male Gadwall, Anas strepera

This is number 171 in my photo life list, only 179 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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8 responses

  1. Well illustrated information about that duck.

    January 13, 2015 at 3:33 am

    • Thank you Susan!

      January 13, 2015 at 10:15 am

  2. I can see it’s a smaller and slighter bird than the Mallard. The markings are very delicate and attractive when seen close up.

    January 13, 2015 at 7:29 am

    • Thanks Clare! Gadwall look rather plain from a distance, it took me some time to get close enough to show the patterns that you liked.

      January 13, 2015 at 10:16 am

  3. I think I would now be able to identify a male but only if it swam past with its butt out of the water. We are in birder’s paradise down here in Patagonia. Going in search of the elegant trogan today!

    January 13, 2015 at 10:02 am

    • Thanks Judy! Good luck finding the trogan!

      January 13, 2015 at 10:16 am

  4. Nice shots!

    January 13, 2015 at 10:10 am

    • Thanks Allen!

      January 13, 2015 at 10:17 am