Gadwalling About

Anas streperaGadwall (Anas strepera) are a sort of stealth duck, present throughout the winter months but often not noticed with their subdued plumage. This is a long shot photo, but closer views show this plumage is quite spectacular, if not colorful. These three males are some of the handful usually floating between the piers at Brooklyn Bridge Park. They are all showing their nictitating membrane, or third eyelid, here.

“Gadwall” is a puzzler. The species is wide-spread in the northern hemisphere; we’ve inherited the name from the English. The OED says the origin of the word is uncertain, “perh[aps] imit[ative]” ~ from the sound they make? Their ducky calls aren’t very gaddy…. Choate’s wonderful Dictionary of American Bird Names quotes two not-sures, one suggesting the Anglo-Saxon gad, for point, from the tooth-like points on the mandible, as the source.

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