One of the most widespread duck species in the northern hemisphere, found all across North America, Europe, and Asia, the Gadwall is also one of the least ornate. Even males in full breeding plumage have only subtle patterns. As a result, this duck may not command as much attention as more colorful species. Still, it has been recognized for a long time — its simple name has been in use at least since the 1660s, clearly applied first by everyday people, not by scientists. No one seems to know the origin of the word.
In North America, Gadwalls are most numerous in the West, breeding mainly on the northern Great Plains and in western lowland marshes. Smaller numbers nest north to southern Alaska and east to the Great Lakes and Atlantic Coast. In winter, they’re found across the southern U.S. and northern Mexico. The species can be expected at some seasons practically everywhere on this continent, except the far north.