Courtesy Kenn Kaufman
This species is widespread around the globe. It nests across northern Europe, Asia, and North America. Moving south in the winter, it can be found in large flocks in the southern United States, Central America, southern Europe and Asia, and central Africa.
A legend for the range map to the right can be found here.
In summer, this species inhabits open areas near water. This includes prairies, farmland, and tundra. It feeds in shallow lakes and marshes, or on land at the water’s edge. In winter, Northern Pintails may congregate in large numbers in fresh or brackish marshes and lakes. They also use flooded farmland, and particularly enjoy rice fields.
As a dabbling duck, this species “tips-up,” with its head and neck under water and tail in the air, to feed on creatures it finds in the mud. These aquatic creatures make up most of the duck’s spring and summer diet, as well as the diet of the ducklings. In fall and winter, Northern Pintails eat more plant material, such as grasses, seeds, and grains.
Several male pintails will vie for one female, leading to acrobatic aerial chases. Females build their nests in short grass or stubble on dry ground, as far as a half mile from water. Only the female incubates the 6 to 10 eggs; her mate leaves shortly after incubation begins. After 22 to 24 days, the ducklings all hatch in one day, spend a day in the nest, follow the female to water, and fledge 3 to 4 weeks later. The young are immediately able to feed themselves.
Flocks of Northern Pintails migrate north very early in the spring. The southern migration begins in late summer and may extend throughout the fall.