Northern PintailAnas acuta

adult male, breeding
Jukka Jantunen/VIREO
adult female
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
adult male, nonbreeding
Jari Peltomaki/VIREO
adult male, breeding
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
Northern Pintail
Northern Pintail


Male, 25-29" (64-74 cm); female, 21-23" (53-58 cm). Long-necked slender duck. Male has brown head, white underparts and neck with white line extending onto side of head, grayish back and sides, and long, black, pointed central tail feathers. Speculum metallic brown and green with white rear border that shows in flight. Feet gray. Female mottled brown, similar to female Mallard, but paler, grayer, and more slender, with brown speculum bordered with white at rear edge only; tail is more pointed than in female Mallard.


Distinctive 2-tone whistle; females quack.


female flight chatter
male calls & female chatter
female flight quacks
male buzz-peeps


Marshes, prairie ponds, and tundra; sometimes salt marshes in winter.


Breeds from Alaska and Labrador south to California, Nebraska, and Maine. Locally in East and occasionally elsewhere. Winters south to Central America and West Indies. Also in Eurasia.


Although not as numerous as the Mallard, this graceful game bird is still a widespread and common duck, especially in the West, where about half of North America's six million are found. Winter flocks can be very large, numbering in the thousands. Seeds of aquatic plants are the Pintail's main food, but in winter it also eats small aquatic animals; when freshwater habitats freeze over, it resorts to tidal flats, where it feeds on snails and small crabs. Male Northern Pintails are aggressive, often forcing their attentions on females of other species.


6-9 pale greenish-buff eggs in a shallow bowl of grass lined with down, often some distance from water.

Similar Species

adult male, breeding

American Wigeon

18-23" (46-58 cm). Male is brownish with white crown, green ear patch, and bold white shoulder patches easily visible in flight.

adult male, breeding


18-27" (46-69 cm). Male has a green head, white neck ring, chestnut breast, and grayish body; inner feathers of wing (speculum) are metallic purplish blue, bordered in front and back with white.

adult male,breeding


18-21" (46-53 cm). Male is a medium-sized grayish duck with white patch on hind edge of wing, black rump, and sandy brown head. Female mottled brown, with white patch on hind edge of wing.

adult male, March

Long-tailed Duck

Male, 19-22" (48-56 cm); female, 15-17" (38-43 cm). Male boldly patterned in black and white (mainly white in winter, mainly black in summer), with very long, slender central tail feathers.


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