Northern Pintail
FWS Focus

Overview

Characteristics
Overview

Often described as elegant or handsome, the northern pintail is known for their long slender neck and long central tail feathers. These ducks migrate earlier than many other species of dabbling ducks reaching the breeding grounds as soon as the ice melts. 

Scientific Name

Anas acuta
Common Name
Northern Pintail
Kingdom

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Genus
Species

Identification Numbers

TSN:

Characteristics

Characteristic category

Habitat

Characteristics
Habitat

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.

Wetland
Grassland

Ecosystem with large, flat areas of grasses.

Lake
Characteristic category

Food

Characteristics
Food

They are extremely graceful and fast fliers, fond of zig-zagging from great heights before leveling off to land. They are agile on land and are often seen feeding in grain fields.

Characteristic category

Physical Characteristics

Characteristics
Size & Shape

Male have a white chest and a white pin stripe that runs up their dark brown neck and head. The central tail feathers are long, black, and form a point. Females are a mottled brown to brown-gray. 

MeasurementsLength: 20 to 30 in (51 to 76 cm)Wingspan: 34 in (86.4 cm)

Sound

Males make a distinct wheezy whistle. 

Characteristic category

Lifecycle

Characteristics
Reproduction

Like other species of ducks, the females create a grass nest lined with down feather. However, unlike other ducks, these nest are often built a distance away from water. Females lay six to nine pale green eggs.  

Geography

Characteristics
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.

Launch Interactive Map