The Pintail or Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) is a duck with wide geographic distribution that breeds in the northern areas of Europe, Asia, and North America. It is migratory and winters south of its breeding range to the equator. Unusually for a bird with such a large range, it has no geographical subspecies if the possibly conspecific duck Eaton’s pintail is considered to be a separate species.
This is a large duck, and the male’s long central tail feathers give rise to the species’ English and scientific names. Both sexes have blue-grey bills and gray legs and feet. The drake is more striking, having a thin white stripe running from the back of its chocolate-colored head down its neck to its mostly white undercarriage. The drake also has attractive gray, brown, and black patterning on its back and sides. The hen’s plumage is more subtle and subdued, with drab brown feathers similar to those of other female dabbling ducks. Hens make a coarse quack and the drakes a flute-like whistle.
The Northern Pintail is a bird of open wetlands which nests on the ground, often some distance from water. It feeds by dabbling for plant food and adds small invertebrates to its diet during the nesting season. It is highly gregarious when not breeding, forming large mixed flocks with other species of duck. This duck’s population is affected by predators, parasites, and avian diseases. Human activities, such as agriculture, hunting, and fishing, have also had a significant impact on numbers. Nevertheless, owed to the huge range and large population of this species, it is not threatened globally. [Wikipedia]
Slim and long-necked, the Northern Pintail has a distinctive silhouette. The male is easy to identify by his striking markings and long tail, but even the female can be recognized by her graceful, long-necked shape. [All About Birds]
Northern Pintail Facts [All About Birds]
- Like the Mallard, the Northern Pintail breeds in a variety of habitats all across northern North America and Eurasia. Also, like the Mallard, island populations have splintered off and evolved into separate species. Two closely related forms can be found on Crozet and Kerguelen islands in the very southern Indian Ocean, known as Eaton’s Pintail (Anas eatoni).
- The Northern Pintail is among the earliest nesting ducks in North America, beginning shortly after ice-out in many northern areas.
- The oldest recorded Northern Pintail was a male and at least 22 years, 3 months old when he was found in Saskatchewan, Canada.