Anas strepera dabbling duck, gadwalls lack any brilliant colorization. Though drab, on closer examination their coloring could be considered eye-catching.

Drakes are a gray brown with a white abdomen and black rump and undertail coverts. They sport a white speculum that distinguishes them in flight from other ducks, along with a bit of black and chestnut on their wings. Their head and neck are a lighter gray brown than the body and wings. Other distinguishing features include a slate blue bill and yellow legs.

At a quick glance, gadwall hens resemble other brown female ducks, except they have a distinctive orange yellow bill with gray black spots and a white speculum. Hens are a buffy tan as opposed to the males gray brown with little difference in shading between the head, neck and body. They have little, if any, chestnut color, unlike the drakes.

Gadwall breed near seasonal and semi-permanent wetlands, mainly in the shortgrass, tallgrass and mixed prairie regions of the United States and Canada. Substantial numbers also breed in wetland habitats of the Great Basin. Gadwall tend to begin breeding later than most ducks. Female gadwall nest in fields and meadows, and on islands and dikes in wetlands, and lay an average of 7-12 eggs.

Aquatic vegetation makes up the majority of the gadwall’s diet. As a result, they are often found feeding far from the shoreline, in deeper water than most other dabbling ducks. Gadwall up-end to feed on leafy portions of pondweed, naiad, wigeon grass, water milfoil and algae, as well as the seeds of pondweed, smartweed, bulrush and spike rush. They also feed on aquatic invertebrates, such as crustaceans and midges.

Visit gravel pits, lakes, reservoirs and coastal wetlands in winter. To see breeding gadwalls look in the shallow edges of lakes and gravel pits where there is vegetation – mainly in the Midlands and south-east of England, eastern central Scotland, eastern Northern Ireland and Turkey.

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