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Eight northern pintails including two females and six males on a cold, winter lake
Information icon Northern pintails at Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Clayton Ferrell, USFWS.

Northern pintail

Anas acuta

  • Taxon: Anseriformes, Anatidae
  • Range: Northern pintail typically breed in the Prairie Pothole Region of the north-central United States, central Canada, and Alaska. They spend their winters in the southern United States and Mexico, especially along the Texas and Louisiana coasts of the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Status: Not listed, low concern – More than 2.3 million northern pintail were estimated in the breeding population in 2018. However, substantial declines since the 1950s has resulted in restricted harvest regulations for this species.


During the breeding season, northern pintail nest primarily on the ground in grasslands, but they also nest in fallow croplands and winter wheat fields. Northern pintail migrate earlier than many other species of dabbling ducks, and they use primarily open wetlands including flooded portions of agricultural fields and coastal marshes.

A bird with burgandy head and grey back dipping its beak in water
Northern pintail at Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Mike Dunn, USFWS.


Northern pintail primarily feed in shallow water and consume seeds, invertebrates, and agricultural grains. Northern pintail are especially common during winter in harvested rice fields where waste grain is abundant. During the breeding season, they feed on animals such as crustaceans, aquatic insects, and tadpoles.

Two birds taking flight from a wetland
Northern pintails taking flight at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by William Powell, USFWS.

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Designated critical habitat

This species is not listed as under the Endangered Species Act; there is no critical habitat designated.

Federal Register notices

The following Federal Register documents were automatically gathered by searching the Federal Register Official API with this species’ scientific name ordered by relevance. You can conduct your own search on the Federal Register website.

  • We're sorry but an error occurred. Visit the Federal Register to conduct your own search.

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