The Gadwall – A quiet dabbling duck
The plumage of the male and female Gadwall differ. The males’ chest, shoulders and flanks are dyed dark grey and the most striking thing in their plumage is the deep black rump. Gadwall females are light brown and look a lot like Mallard females. They’re dark brown on the top of their head while the bottom is lighter. In flight, Gadwalls can be recognised by their bright white belly and speculum.
Males’ beak are full grey while the females’ beak have an orange edge and darker spots on it. Both have yellow/orange legs.
Gadwalls can weigh up to 1000 grams and reach a wingspan of up to 90 cm. They are smaller and slimmer than the Mallard and the male is slightly larger than the female.
Gadwall’s circulation area goes from North Europe to North Asia. It appears that they have also started to breed in North America. In Europe, it can be observed in Iceland, Great Britain, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. In southern areas of Europe, their breeding sites are not regularly busy.
In Germany Gadwall are mainly found in the lake districts of Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and also in the coastal hinterland of the North Sea.
Bird Watching Tips
Gadwall like standing in large waters such as lakes and ponds but they don’t spurn rivers with dense vegetation where the banks flow more slowly. Breeding colonies can be followed near treeless shores. Gadwalls are quite gentle birds and the couples often breed, sometimes even with other species. They tolerate each other and build their nests close together. Gadwalls often come back in a pair from their winter area to build their nest from grass and down, in which the female finally lays seven to twelve eggs. These eggs will hatch from May to June and until then, the male guards the nest to protect the eggs from enemies such as foxes and raccoons.
The small, spotted Gadwalls are immediately buoyant and accompany their parents in search of food. These ducks eat about everything the water has to offer: water plants are their main food group. During breeding, they eat small water insects, beetles, worms and even small fish. The otherwise quiet Gadwalls owe their name to the chattering sound they make when they are looking for food.
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A collection of videos, photos and audio recordings of the Gadwall can be found in the Internet Bird Collection (IBC)