Northern Pintail

Anas acuta

Picture of a group of northern pintails, one male and five females standing on marsh vegetation. A sixth female swims in the background.
Image by ‘Afsarnayakkan’ on Wikimedia, CC BY 3.0

Physical: The northern pintail gets its name from the male duck’s long pointed tail. Males have brown heads, a white breast with a white stripe up the neck, and various patterns of grey, black, and white on the rest of the body. Females have tan colored heads and intricately patterned brown and white plumage.

Habitat: Northern pintails can be found across North America, Europe, and Asia, making them one of the most populous duck species in the world. They spend their summers in prairies, farmland, and northern tundra near bodies of water. In the winter, they move to shallow water environments with exposed mudflats – fresh and brackish water marshes, lakes, and flooded fields. You will see them in Barnegat Bay during the winter.

Feeding: Forages on land, or by flipping front first into the water to pick through the mud. They eat a mix of seeds and insects, which varies by season. In the fall and winter, they eat grasses, pondweeds, and waste grain in farm fields. In the spring and summer, they eat plant roots and new growth. They also shift more toward animals in the summer, including insects, molluscs, and crustaceans. Ducklings eat mostly insects.

Breeding: Adults begin pairing up in the winter, through migration to the breeding grounds. Several males might court the same female. The female will build a nest on dry ground, laying 7-10 pale olive eggs which she incubates for 21-25 days.

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