Status: Uncommon (R)
eBird Sightings Map: http://goo.gl/M4LRWQ
Locally breeding species. Seen in suitable habitat usually in small groups of 2-4 birds but up to 16 and occasionally more (highest = 50) on occasion when small fall congregations develop; this is not a bird that regularly forms huge groups though, don’t expect to often see more than a dozen or perhaps 20, albeit 130 were seen during November 2015 at Oka. Might be seen any month of the year if sufficient open water and food availability is present but are only consistently seen once ice has left the rivers any time from March onwards. Larger groups of birds form in late fall outside the breeding season and may stay into early winter. Winter sightings are unusual and mostly come from near Ile-Ste-Helene, the Lachine Rapids and the Récré-O-Parc. Early spring sightings might first be sought in the open waters near Hungry Bay. A good number of fall passage birds have been reported from the St-Lazare sand pits.
Distribution is widespread as seen on the map, with records from all the waters around Montreal and Laval as well as in the Richelieu valley. Most Gadwall breed in the mid-west prairies around small lakes and streams so those favouring the St-Lawrence valley are somewhat on the outer edges of their usual territory … though their populations have been increasing in recent decades.
During breeding season you should seek Gadwall on smaller bodies of water or along wetlands bordering the major rivers/streams that have plenty of aquatic vegetation. Gadwall often feed in slightly deeper water than other dabbling ducks and associate with many other duck species so it is worthwhile scanning congregations of other species to see if there are Gadwall amongst them. Nests can be up to 200m from the water in long grasses; small islands are favoured. From early April as birds arrive in the area you may see them in wet and flooded pastures holding temporary vernal pools – the Macdonald Campus farm fields south of the Autoroute 40 in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue are a typical and accessible example worth checking.
Gadwall are particularly numerous between the Boucherville Islands and Berthier-Sorel Islands, where it is the most abundant nesting waterfowl species. In a 2007 survey on the Varennes Islands (variously owned by Bird Protection Quebec, Ducks Unlimited Canada and Nature Conservancy Canada), good numbers of nests were found mainly in abandoned and improved pastureland.