Gadwall Duck

The Gadwall is a duck where the males and females are tough to distinguish.

  Photoby Alexandra MacKenzie

Photoby Alexandra MacKenzie

Like many waterfowl, their breeding range centers farther to the west, in the prairies potholes of Nebraska and the Dakotas. Gadwalls seem to love nesting on islands, which is smart, because they are less likely to be discovered by terrestrial predators. Research indicates that gadwalls suffer fewer nest predations than other ducks.

Gadwalls can be found migrating throughout the state, but tend to concentrate along the Mississippi River and along Lake Michigan. The ducks do nest throughout the state, typically in the northwestern barrens and in the southeast at spots like Horicon Marsh.

  Photo by Marie Hale

Photo by Marie Hale

Gadwalls are crafty ducks and their populations have increased in North America since the 1980s. They are dabblers, which means they duck into the water for algae, sedges, pondweed, or invertebrates. You can see their feet wobbling in the air as they tip over. However, gadwalls are known to steal food from diving ducks as the divers reach the surface.

You can identify a gadwall by its steep forehead (steeper than a mallard's) and thin bill (thinner than a mallard's). Its feathers are gray and brown, with black tail feathers. You can spot a pair of gadwalls at Faville Grove on the pond along Highway 89.

By Drew Harry, Faville Grove Sanctuary Land Steward