The Gadwall

I wouldn’t describe the Gadwall as the most flamboyant member of the duck world. Never the less, it is enjoyable to watch.

The aerial flights of waterfowl can be quite impressive. They twist and turn their bodies in order maneuver in mid-air. This happens so rapidly that you need to pay sharp attention. It is a little easier to notice in the much larger Canada Geese. But ducks do it too.

A flock of Gadwalls conducts a fly-by over a small water body in order to check for danger before circling around and landing. Sony a9 + 100-400mm lens & 1.4x teleconverter @ 560mm, ISO 800, f/8.0, 1/2000. ©Stanley Buman. Swan Lake State Park, Carroll, IA.

Being a heavier duck, the Gadwall’s landing can be a little slower. On a windy day, they appear to hover and slowly descend; more like a helicopter.

A Gadwall drake spreads out its feathers to catch the wind, providing for a softer water landing. Sony a9 + 100-400mm lens & 1.4x teleconverter @ 560mm, ISO 800, f/8.0, 1/2000. ©Stanley Buman. Swan Lake State Park, Carroll, IA.

Waterfowl land feet-first, often gliding along the water surface for a short distance.

This Gadwall drake appears to be water-skiing in the landing process. Sony a9 + 100-400mm lens & 1.4x teleconverter @ 560mm, ISO 800, f/8.0, 1/2000. ©Stanley Buman. Swan Lake State Park, Carroll, IA

Some species of waterfowl run along the surface of the water, flapping their wings until they can get enough lift to rise off the water. Puddle ducks can spring up off the water to take flight.

Gadwalls jump up off the water to become airborne. They do not require a runway to take flight. Sony a9 + 100-400mm lens & 1.4x teleconverter @ 560mm, ISO 640, f/8.0, 1/2000. ©Stanley Buman. Dunbar Slough, Greene County, IA.

The next time you have a chance to see waterfowl, spend time watching their behavior. Notice their flight patterns. How do they land and take flight? How does this change between the larger ducks and the smaller ducks? Understanding some of these simple behaviors can help in the identification process. Or, you can just enjoy watching them.

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