A Gadwall is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify Gadwalls. We have also put together a list of fun Gadwall t-shirts, Gadwall bird patches, birdhouses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers, and other fun bird-watching items.
The Gadwall (Mareca Strepera) is a common dabbling duck mostly widespread in parts of North America, Europe, and Asia.
Description and Identification
Gadwalls are beautiful ducks that are 18-22 inches long, with a wingspan of 31-35 inches. These
ducks display sexual dimorphism as the males are larger and heavier than the females. While the
females weigh approximately 30oz on average, the males can be heavier than 35oz. From a
distance, Gadwalls might look very plain in coloration, but by inspecting them from closing their
elegant patterns can be observed. Males have bright and elaborate patterns on their plumage,
while females are generally plain brown and gray. Breeding males have predominantly gray
plumage, black backs, light brown wings, and a glowing white speculum. Males might look similar
to females when they are not breeding. Both sexes undergo the process of molting twice
Gadwall Color Pattern
Male Gadwalls have gray-brown plumage with a very distinctive black tail. On the other hand, the female Gadwall’s plumage is patterned with brown, black, and buff feathers. Whereas the male’s bill is black/ dark brown, the female’s bill is a rusty orange.
Gadwall ducks are dabbling ducks that have a physique similar to that of Mallards. Their square heads are fairly large due to their steeped forehead. Although it resembles a Mallard, its bill is significantly thinner.
The relative size for both sexes is:
- Length: 18.1-22.4 in (46-57 cm)
- Weight: 17.6-44.1 oz (500-1250 g)
- Wingspan: 33.1 in (84 cm)
- During mating season, the male Gadwall courts the female by raising its tail feathers and dives in and out of the water. Once he has gotten the female’s attention, they both bob their heads and touch bills as a form of courting.
Gadwalls mostly survive on aquatic vegetation. Seeds, roots, stems, leaves, water milfoil,
pondweed, musk grass, and widgeon grass are commonly found in their diet. These ducks prefer to
feed on surface water, unlike diving ducks. Gadwalls have also been observed stealing food from
diving ducks when they surface. During breeding season these ducks include animal matter as
50% of their diet. Insects, amphibians, fish, mollusks, and aquatic invertebrates are a part of their
animal diet. Although they eat such a great variety of animal matter during the breeding season,
the proportion of their animal diet falls to 5% during the summer.
This dabbling duck looks for food both on the surface and under the surface of water bodies. Its diet mostly consists of aquatic plants like milfoil, invertebrates, and seeds. Gadwalls also sometimes snatch prey from other diving ducks like the American Coots.
Breeding habitats preferred by Gadwalls are sloughs, ponds, small lakes with emergent vegetation,
and marshes. These ducks are more abundantly found in marshes with grasslands than in open
water marshes or deep marshes. During winter they choose regions with an abundance of leafy
aquatic vegetation. Brackish water marshes are the most suitable wintering habitats for Gadwalls.
Regions with abundant vegetation are also very necessary for them as they need suitable cover for
hiding their ducklings. Often, Gadwalls are observed to return to the same wintering habitats every
Gadwalls are mostly found in prairies, freshwater marshes, ponds, small lakes, and potholes with the surrounding vegetation. On occasion, they also inhabit some saltwater bodies found in marshes.
Range and Migration
Gadwalls are migratory ducks that are widespread in North America, Europe, and Asia. They are
most abundantly found in inland waters west of the Mississippi River. These ducks winter in regions
such as Southern Mexico, coastal Alaska, Guatemala, and coastal regions of America. Their
breeding grounds are situated northwards of their wintering grounds.
Gadwall Life Cycle
At a rate of one egg per day, the female Gadwall lays 8-11 white eggs and lays them in nests. She then incubates her eggs for about 24 to 27 days. Upon hatching, the ducklings leave the nest shortly after. The female will lead them to the water where they will begin to fend for themselves. Young ducklings take flight after 48 to 59 days.
Male Gadwalls engage in elaborate courtship displays to attract females. Two of the most common
of these are the Grunt-Whistle and the Head-Up-Tail-Up. If the interest of the female display in the
male, she also begins to indulge in courtship behavior. They might perform their courtship
displays together, or individually. The males mount the females when they extend their necks. Both
sexes have been observed bathing together after copulation. Gadwalls form new pairs every year.
Both members of the pair search for a suitable nesting site, which is often chosen around the natal
areas of the female. After successfully choosing a nesting area, the female creates a bowl-shaped
nest by digging into the soil. This nest is then lined with twigs, grasses, leaves, and feathers.
Female Gadwalls lay 7-13 eggs which are then incubated for 26 days.
Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes
At Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.
Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Gadwalls
The most common types of bird watching binoculars for viewing Gadwalls are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.
If you love the Gadwall you should purchase a Bird Watching Academy & Camp T-shirt. To help support bird conservation we donate 10 percent to bird conservation activities.
Gadwall Iron On Patches
Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron-on patches. Our bird-watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen and identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.
The Gadwall is a great iron-on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.
Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Gadwall. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.
Bird Feeders for Gadwalls
There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.
Best Bird Houses for Gadwalls
There are many types of birdhouses. Building a birdhouse is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 birdhouses have become our favorites. Getting a birdhouse for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these birdhouses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.