Gadwalls are medium-sized, streamlined ducks with
mottled brown-and-black body plumage and light brown
heads. Females and males in eclipse plumage may look
superficially similar to Mallards. Both sexes have a
black and white wing-patch, or speculum, that is
distinctive in flight. Males also have chestnut on the
forewing. Males in breeding plumage have gray and
black striations on their bodies and heads, and black
rumps. Females, immatures, and eclipse-plumaged males
have thin, black bills with orange on the sides, while
males in breeding plumage have solid black bills.
A late nester, the female Gadwall picks the nest
site, which is usually near water and surrounded by
dense weeds or grass. The nest itself is on the
ground, made of grasses and weeds and lined with down.
The female lays 8 to 10 eggs, which she incubates for
24 to 27 days. Shortly after hatching, the young leave
the nest and can swim and find their own food. The
female remains with the young until they fledge at
about ten weeks of age.
The Gadwall was traditionally a duck of the Midwestern
prairies and was an uncommon sight in Washington. The
conversion of the coniferous landscape to a more open
one has helped create habitats more inviting to
Gadwalls, as has the spread of Eurasian Water Milfoil
into urban lakes. The first Gadwall nests in
Washington were reported in the mid-1960s. Range-wide,
the Gadwall population fluctuates greatly, but it
continues to expand its range and does not appear to
be in decline overall.
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