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Northern Pintail

The Pintail or Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) is a common and widespread duck. It breeds in the northern areas of Europe and Asia and across most of Canada, Alaska and the midwestern United States.

This dabbling duck is strongly migratory and winters further south than its breeding range, sometimes as far as the equator. It is highly sociable outside the breeding season and forms large mixed flocks with other ducks. In Kenya it frequents permanent waters, wintering in large numbers on the Rift Valley lakes and in the C and W highlands.

The breeding male is unmistakable. It has a pale grey body, white breast and lateral neck stripe, and dark brown head. The vent region is buff and black, and it has the long pointed tail that gives the species its English and scientific names. The females are light brown with a whiter throat, and their pointed tail is shorter, but they are easily identified by their shape, long neck, and long all grey bill. In non-breeding (eclipse) plumage, the drake Pintail looks more like the female. The species is fairly large for a duck, but is light for its size; males range from 65 to 75 cm in length, while females are smaller at 50 to 55 cm.

The Northern Pintail prefers open wetlands, such as wet grassland or tundra, and feeds by dabbling for plant food mainly in the evening or at night. During the nesting season, this bird also consumes aquatic insects, mollusks and crustaceans. It sometimes feeds on grasses and seeds in fields. The nest is a shallow scrape on the ground lined with plant material and down, in a dry location that may be fairly far from water.

Courtship often includes aerial pursuit of a single female by several males.

The male has a Teal-like whistle, whereas the female has a Mallard-like quack.

There are two isolated island races: A. a. eatoni (Eaton’s Pintail), of Kerguelen Island, and A. a. drygalskyi (Crozet Pintail), of Crozet Island in which the males do not develop the full breeding plumage.

Northern Pintail


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