With its long tail and long neck accentuated by a slim, vertical white stripe, the male Northern Pintail’s appearance is often described as elegant. Northern Pintails are highly migratory, and move south early in the fall. They migrate at night at fairly low altitude, and fly at up to 65 miles per hour.
Nests of Northern Pintails are sometimes parasitized by other species of ducks or by Ring-necked Pheasants. Such nests hatch fewer eggs than unparasitized nests. Pintails can live a long time. The record age for a wild bird is over 21 years.
Description of the Northern Pintail
The Northern Pintail is a dabbling duck about the size of a Mallard but more slender and elegant.
Males are mostly gray, with a brown head and a white breast with a narrow white stripe extending up each side of the neck. They also have a long, pointed, black tail. Length: 20-25 in. Wingspan: 34 in.
Females are mostly brownish, with a dark gray bill and mostly unmarked brown head.
Seasonal change in appearance
Males in nonbreeding plumage are much paler.
The immature Northern Pintail is similar to the adult female.
Northern Pintail inhabit ponds, lakes, and marshes, as well as salt bays.
Northern Pintails primarily eat seeds and insects, depending on the time of year.
Northern Pintails forage by tilting head-first into the water to probe mud.
Northern Pintail occur throughout much of the U.S. and Canada, breeding from the central U.S. north, and wintering across a broad swath of the central and southern U.S., as well as the Pacific states and provinces and the Atlantic Coast. While it is one of the most abundant of waterfowl species in North America, its populations does go up and down rather dramatically, primarily based on breeding success, which in turn is influenced by water conditions in its Prairie Pothole breeding range.
The Northern Pintail also occurs in Europe and Asia, and is one of the most numerous of duck species in the world.
Courtship in Northern Pintails can be very aggressive, with several males doggedly chasing one female in long flights.
Female Northern Pintails give a “quack” similar to female Mallards. Males have a variety of calls used during courtship.
- Females resemble Mallards, but lack the bold stripes on the head.
The Northern Pintail nest is a shallow depression lined with grasses, leaves, and down, and situated on land but relatively near water.
Number: Usually lay 6-10 eggs.
Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 21-25 days and leave the nest almost immediately, but are not fledged until about 6-7 weeks of age.