(Mareca strepera). Patient Number 22-924.
Date of admission: July 7, 2022.
Reason for admission: Orphaned.
Gadwalls are medium to large ducks, roughly the same size as Mallards, but they have much thinner beaks and an overall more slender physique. Male Gadwalls are grey-brown with a black patch at the tail. From a distance these ducks can look plain, but close up they are anything but! Males are intricately patterned in grey, brown, and black. Females are patterned with brown and buff with a thin orange edge to their dark bills. Both sexes have a white wing patch that is sometimes visible while swimming, resting, or flying. Gadwall ducklings are light yellow with brown patches.
Gadwalls are dabbling ducks, and feed mostly on aquatic plants. They also eat small numbers of mollusks, insects, crustaceans, and small fish. They usually feed by dabbling for plant food with their heads submerged, but can also dive underwater for food, more proficiently than other dabbling ducks. Gadwalls have been known to sometimes steal food from other ducks as well. Very young ducklings eat many insects at first before shifting to a more vegetarian diet. They can be found all over North America in open wetlands, such as prairie or steppe lakes, and wet grasslands or marshes.
Gadwall pairs form between August and November, usually during the fall migration. Gadwalls are seasonally monogamous and may start breeding after their first year. Compared to most ducks, nesting begins rather late. The nesting site is usually near water, on dry land, and surrounded by dense weeds or grass. The nest is in a shallow depression, built of grasses, and weeds, lined with down that the mother has plucked from herself. Gadwall females usually lay between 7 to 12 smooth white eggs that are incubated for 24 to 27 days. Only the female lays on the eggs, though sometimes two or more females may lay in the same nest. The ducklings leave the nest as soon as one day after hatching. They are alert, fully feathered, and can already feed themselves at one day old. They only need to stay with mom for protection. The ducklings can fly 48-59 days after hatching.
These gadwall ducklings were rescued after being found alone in a back alley in Okotoks, AB. It is most likely that their mother had nested in a neighbouring backyard and they became separated from her while she migrated to the nearest pond. They are healthy orphans, so will remain with us until they are old enough to be released back into the wild. As they grow, we move the ducklings up in water depth so that the young ducklings can experience shallow water and the older ducklings can practice diving before being released. There are multiple-sized diving ponds to cater to their varying ages and sizes. Currently, they are all growing rapidly and swimming well. Thank you so much for supporting these ducklings!