Mareca strepera

Status:  Common, locally abundant, regular spring and fall migrant statewide.  Common regular breeder north-central Nebraska and Sandhills, uncommon south-central, rare casual elsewhere.  Rare, locally uncommon, regular winter visitor Platte River Valley and Lancaster Co.

Documentation: Specimen: KSC Olson #20, 20 Mar 1906 Kearney, Buffalo Co.

Taxonomy: No subspecies are recognized. This species was recently moved from genus Anas to genus Mareca, based on genetic studies (Chesser et al 2017).

Spring:  Feb 6, 7, 7 <<<>>> Jun 5, 9, 9

Late dates cited here are from locations where breeding was not known to occur. This species typically begins arriving in early Mar, as open water becomes available. Numbers peak in early Apr, and migration is usually over by early May.

  • High counts:  2600 at Crescent L NWR, Garden Co 15 Apr 1980, 1800 at Harvard WPA, Clay Co 9 Apr 2000, and 1750 at Crescent Lake NWR 23 Apr 1996.

Summer:  Highest breeding densities occur in the Sandhills and to a much lesser extent the Rainwater Basin.  In the Sandhills it was the fourth most common dabbling duck after Blue-winged Teal, Mallard, and Northern Shoveler; Vrtiska and Powell (2011) estimated for 2003-2005 an average annual total of 17,516 Gadwalls. Harding (1986) found 32 nests in Clay Co 1981-85, the third most common nester after Blue-winged Teal and Mallard, although a hen and brood in York Co 16 Aug 2003 was the first evidence of Rainwater Basin breeding in at least 15 years (Jorgensen 2012).

Nesting reports away from the Sandhills and Rainwater Basin are few: Cuming Co (Wensien 1962), Dawes and Sioux Cos (Rosche 1982; Ducey 1988), Scotts Bluff Co, Lancaster Co (Cink 1971, 1975), Saunders Co (Ducey 1988), and Webster Co (Wensien 1962).

There have been several summer reports from counties where breeding is unrecorded, including Douglas-Sarpy Cos, Butler Co, Lancaster Co, Platte Co, and Knox Co. Most of these reports are probably of molt migrants (see Fall).

  • Breeding phenology:
    Incubation: 26 May-14 Jul
    Dependent fledglings: 13 May-20 Jul.

Fall:  Sep 14, 15, 17<<<>>>Jan 11, 12, 13

Jul, Aug, and early Sep reports from areas where breeding did not occur are likely of molt migrants, which disperse in any direction, often for long distances (Palmer 1976). True migration becomes evident by late Sep; 200 were in Lincoln Co 14 Sep 2011. Migrating numbers peak in late Oct, although significant numbers may be present well into Dec provided open water is available. As many as 575 were at Lake McConaughy 30-31 Dec 2011; in the east, 50 were still in Cedar Co as late as 26 Dec 1994. There are few reports after early Jan (see Winter).

  • High counts: 5800 at Lake McConaughy, Keith Co 31 Oct 2006, 2200 at Crescent Lake NWR 9 Oct 1996, and 2030 in Lancaster Co 3 Nov 1998.

Winter: This species usually over-winters in the Platte River Valley counties and in Lancaster Co, given open water conditions. Previously, only small numbers wintered, but more recently these numbers have increased. Of about 70 reports for the period 12 Jan-5 Feb, 36 have been in the winters 2012-2020. Best counts were 24 at Scottsbluff SL 14 Jan 2016 and 16 there 23 Jan 2015 increasing to 27 on 13 Feb as migrants began arriving.

  • High counts: 373 at Lake Ogallala, Keith Co 29 Jan 2000, 62 at Clear Creek WMA, Keith Co 16 Jan 2000, and 32 at Two Rivers SP, Douglas Co 16 Jan 1995.


KSC: Kearney State College (now University of Nebraska-Kearney)
NWR: National Wildlife Refuge
SL: Sewage Lagoons
SP: State Park
WPA: Waterfowl Production Area (Federal)


Photograph (top) of a Gadwall pair at Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co, 6 Mar 2009 by Phil Swanson.

Literature Cited

Chesser, R.T., K.J. Burns, C. Cicero, J.L. Dunn, A.W. Kratter, I.J. Lovette, P.C. Rasmussen, J. V. Remsen, Jr., J.D. Rising, D.F. Stotz, and K. Winker. 2017. Fifty-eighth supplement to the American Ornithological Society’s Check-list of North American Birds. Auk 134: 751-773.

Cink, C.L. 1971. Some interesting summer bird records for Lancaster County in 1970. NBR 39:58-59.

Cink, C.L. 1975. Some waterfowl breeding records for Lancaster County. NBR 43: 40-41.

Ducey, J.E. 1988. Nebraska birds, breeding status and distribution. Simmons-Boardman Books, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.

Harding, R.G. 1986. Waterfowl nesting preferences and productivity in the Rainwater Basin, Nebraska.  Master’s thesis, Kearney State College, Kearney, Nebraska.

Jorgensen, J.G. 2012.  Birds of the Rainwater Basin, Nebraska.  Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Palmer, R.S., ed. 1976. Handbook of North American birds. Vol. 2. Waterfowl (Parts 1 and 2). Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.

Rosche, R.C. 1982. Birds of northwestern Nebraska and southwestern South Dakota, an annotated checklist. Cottonwood Press, Crawford, Nebraska, USA.

Vrtiska, M.P., and L. Powell. 2011. Estimates of Duck Breeding Populations in the Nebraska Sandhills Using Double Observer Methodology. Waterbirds 34: 96-101.

Wensien, R. 1962. Nesting report, 1961. NBR 30: 24-25.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2020.  Gadwall (Mareca strepera), Version 1.0. In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online