Gadwall (Anas strepera)
The Anas strepera or as it is commonly known, the Gadwall, is a common and widespread duck of the Anatidae family. It is basically a grey-coloured dabbling duck with a black rear end. When you look more closely at the grey colouring you will notice that it is made up of delicate speckling and barring. When it flies is shows a distinct white wing patch and is just a little smaller then a mallard.
In non-breeding times the beautifully patterned drake begins to look more like its female counterpart who is light brown in colouring. The Gadwall has a total wingspan of 78 to 90 cm and is 46 to 56 cm long. It can be found in the United Kingdom where it nests in small numbers. Interesting it is one of the species listed in the ‘Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds’ (AEWA).
These ducks live preferably in open wetlands, such as wet grasslands, gravel pits and in slow-flowing rivers where there are islands of vegetation. Their breeding habitats are similar and can be found in large reservoirs and estuaries. If you want to find any breeding gadwalls look in the shallow edges of gravel pits and lakes near any vegetation. You will find them mainly in the Midlands and southeast part of England, eastern Northern Ireland and southeast of Ireland, eastern central Scotland and southeast Wales.
They mainly eat leaves, seeds and the stems of the water plants found near their habitat. They feed by dabbling for plant food under the water by ducking under with their head submerged. The Gadwall on a whole is a quiet species; the female makes a rasping croak and has a ‘quack’ similar to a mallard, whereas the male has a hoarse whistling call.
The Gadwall will nest on the ground, quite away from the waters edge. Most dabbling ducks are very social and form large groups but the Gadwall is not as gregarious outside the breeding season and will only form small flocks. The juvenile birds are first fed insects and then later mollusks will also be added to their normal eating habits during the nesting season.