Birds - Gadwall
( Originally Published 1904 )
Called also: GRAY DUCK
Length-20 to 22 inches.
Male—Upper parts have general appearance of brownish gray, waved and marked with crescent-shaped white and blackish bars. Top of head streaked with black or reddish brown; sides of head and neck pale buff brown, mottled with darker; lower neck and breast black or very dark gray, each feather marked with white and resembling scales ; grayish and white underneath, minutely lined with gray waves; lower back dusky, changing to black on tail coverts; space under tail black. Wings chestnut brown, gray, and black, with white patch framed in velvety black and chestnut. Wing-linings white. Bill lead color. Feet orange.
Female—Smaller than male and darker. Head and throat like male's; back dark grayish brown, the feathers edged with buff ; breast and sides buff, thickly spotted with black, but the female throughout lacks the beautiful waves, scales, and crescent-shaped marks that adorn her mate. Underneath, including under tail-coverts and wing-linings, white. Little or no chestnut on wings ; speculum or wing-patch white and gray. Bill dusky, blotched with orange. Immature birds resemble the mother.
Range—Cosmopolitan; nests in North America, from the middle states northward to the fur countries, but chiefly within United States limits. Most abundant in Mississippi Valley region and west; also northward to the Saskatchewan.
Season—Winter resident south of Virginia and southern Illinois; winter visitor, most abundant in spring and autumn migrations, north of Washington.
This beautiful species, first discovered by Wilson, on the shores of Seneca Lake, New York, keeps close by fresh water, showing no liking whatever for the sea as the black duck does. In the Atlantic states the gadwall is rare, except as a migratory visitor inland, while in the. sloughs of the Mississippi Valley, Florida, and the Gulf states, it is abundant in favored spots that other ducks frequent when the wild rice and field-corn ripen, and that local sportsmen also revel in. The gadwall's flesh is particularly fine; its mixed diet of grain and small aquatic animal food imparting a gamy flavor to it that epicures appreciate.
As this duck is very shy and full of fear, it dozes most of its time away when the sun is high, securely hidden in the tall sedges that line the marshy lake or quiet stream; and emerging at twilight to feed, to disport itself with its companions, to lift up its voice in happy bubblings and quacks, to fly from lake to lake in wedge-shaped companies, it pursues, under cover of partial or even total darkness, the round of pleasures and duties customary among all the duck tribe. In nesting and other habits as well, the gadwall so closely resembles the mallard that a description of them would be merely a repetition. Even its voice is very like the mallard's, although the quack is more frequently repeated; but Gesner must have discovered some unusually shrill, high-pitched notes in it when he added strepera to the bird's name.