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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Gadwall -- Anas strepera

RANGE: Breeds from southern Alaska and southern Yukon to the New Brunswick-Nova Scotia border, south locally to southern California, northern Texas, central Minnesota, and northern Pennsylvania and on the Atlantic Coast to North Carolina. Winters from southern Alaska, southern British Columbia and Colorado to southern South Dakota, Iowa, the southern Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay on the Atlantic Coast south to Mexico and the Gulf Coast.

STATUS: Uncommon, but numbers have increased substantially during the past 2 decades and the range is extending eastward.

HABITAT: Inhabits prairie marshes, sloughs, ponds or small lakes in grasslands in both freshwater and brackish habitats. Generally avoids wetlands bordered by woodlands or thick brush, preferring those bordered by dense, low herbaceous vegetation or shrubby willows and with grassy islands. Prefers to winter in freshwater, marshy habitats but can be found on open water of any kind.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Shallow water for feeding; marshes or grassy areas near water for nesting.

NEST: Nests on the ground on a well-drained site on islands in lakes, in upland meadows or pastures, in alfalfa fields, or on prairies, usually within 150 feet of water. Prefers to nest in uplands rather than over water, especially in dense, coarse herbaceous vegetation and under shrubby willows.

FOOD: Prefers to feed along shallow marsh edges with abundant aquatic plant life, but also feeds in open water more than other dabblers. Sometimes feeds in stubble fields for grain, or in woods for acorns. Consumes mainly leaves and stems of aquatic plants; also eats insects, mollusks, crustaceans, amphibians, and fishes.

REFERENCES: Bellrose 1976, DeGraff et al. 1980, Johnsgard 1975b, Palmer 1976a, Terres 1980.

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