Gadwall, Mareca strepera
Gadwalls are versatile ducks that inhabit a wide range of wetland habitats. They can be found in freshwater lakes, ponds, marshes, flooded fields, and coastal estuaries. They breed primarily in the northern parts of North America and Eurasia, while during winter, they migrate south to seek milder climates, often extending to Mexico, Central America, the Mediterranean region, and parts of Asia.
Male Gadwalls have a grayish-brown body with intricate scalloping on their breast and sides. They have a black rear end, a distinctive white speculum on their wings, and a chestnut-colored head with a black bill. Females are mottled brown and have a lighter-colored bill.
Gadwalls are dabbling ducks, meaning they feed primarily by tipping forward in shallow water, grazing on submerged vegetation, and occasionally upending to reach deeper food sources. They have a diverse diet, feeding on a variety of plant matter such as seeds, aquatic plants, grasses, and agricultural crops. They also consume insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and small fish.
Gadwalls are relatively quiet ducks compared to other waterfowl species. They are not known for their loud vocalizations and tend to be more silent in their communication.
Male Gadwalls perform courtship displays that include head-bobbing, bill dipping, and neck stretching. However, their displays are generally less elaborate compared to other duck species.
Gadwalls typically build their nests on the ground in dense vegetation near water. The female selects the nest site and constructs a shallow depression lined with plant material, leaves, and down feathers. The nest is often hidden and well-camouflaged among grasses or shrubs to provide protection from predators. They may also use abandoned nests built by other waterfowl species.
The female Gadwall lays a clutch of 8 to 12 creamy-white or pale greenish eggs, usually one per day. Incubation is primarily performed by the female and lasts for about 24 to 28 days. After hatching, the female leads the ducklings to water, often within a day or two. The ducklings are capable of swimming, feeding, and following their parents shortly after hatching.
Both the male and female Gadwalls actively participate in raising their young. The parents provide protection, guidance, and supervision to the ducklings. The ducklings feed on a diet consisting of aquatic invertebrates, insects, small fish, seeds, and plant matter. The parents also teach the young how to forage and find suitable food sources.
Gadwall ducklings acquire their flight feathers at around 40 to 50 days after hatching. Once they fledge, they become capable of sustained flight.
In winter, Gadwalls undertake seasonal migrations to seek more favorable conditions and food resources. They often form large flocks and may travel long distances to reach their wintering grounds.