Return to Easily Identify Dabbling Ducks   


Anas acuta

Dabbling Ducks Family

Waterfowl Identification

Male Pintail
Female Pintail
Similar Waterfowl:
Female Gadwall
Pintails are long, slender ducks with long, narrow wings. Pintails are named for their elongated central tail feathers, which constitute one-fourth of the drake's body length. Male pintails have a chocolate-brown head with a white stripe on each side of the neck extending up from the white breast and belly. The back is blackish-grayish and the rump has a white patch on each side. The two of long central tail feathers are black while the others are gray margined by white. In flight, an iridescent greenish-black speculum is displayed. The bill is blue-gray with a black stripe along the center to the tip and the legs and feet are slate-gray. Female northern pintails have a dark brown upper body with a buff or gray head and lower body. The speculum is a dull brown or bronze. The bill is blue-gray blotched with black and the legs and feet are slate-gray.
Typical Size:
The male averages 26 inches and the female averages 21 inches. They weigh about 2 pounds and have a wingspan of 34 inches.
Pintails concentrate on shallow fresh or brackish estuaries adjacent to agricultural areas.
Pintails have a circumpolar breeding pattern. In North America, they breed from Alaska, the central Canadian Arctic, south to the western and central USA. Pintails nest in open areas near seasonal and semi-permanent wetlands located in prairie and tundra habitats. Females typically nest on the ground in low or sparse vegetation often far from water and lay an average of 8 eggs.
Pintails dabble and up-end to feed on the seeds and nutlets of moist-soil and aquatic plants. They also feed on waste grain.
Pintails are among the first ducks to migrate south in the fall and north in the spring. Over half of the pintail population in North America migrates through California. The majority of these birds winter in the Central Valley of California, but some continue south to the west coast of Mexico. Pintails using the Central Flyway winter in the Texas Panhandle and the Gulf Coast of Texas and western Louisiana. The majority of pintails using the Mississippi Flyway winter in Louisiana with smaller numbers wintering in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama.
Flyway Patterns:
Pintails can most commonly be found using the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi flyways.
Flight Formation:
Large, high flying flocks in wide crescent. They are fast and graceful with speeds of 65 MPH.
The male has a loud QUA-QUA and the female has a hoarse QUACK.

Pintail Flight and Plumage Characteristics

This guide will help you recognize pintails on the wing - it emphasizes their fall and winter plumage patterns as well as size, shape, and flight characteristics. Pintail ducks are most plentiful in the western flyway, and are extremely graceful and fast fliers, fond of zig-zagging from great heights before leveling off to land. They are smaller in body size and weight than Mallards, but their long neck and tail make them appear longer. Like other dabbling ducks, they are agile on land and often feed in grain fields. The drakes whistle and the hens have a coarse quack.