Skip Navigation

Species Search:
FieldGuidesthreatened and/or endangered search resultsthreatened and/or endangered

previous  | next

Northern Pintail Anas acuta


enlarge +

Northern Pintail, male and female
credit: J.M.Garg/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

All Images

5 articles:

Get Our Newsletters


Advanced Search

Family: Anatidae, Ducks and Geese view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE Has chocolate brown head and nape, with white breast extending as stripe up side of head. Plumage is otherwise gray and finely marked, but note cream and black vent, and long, pointed tail, often held at an angle. Eclipse male resembles adult female, but retains pattern and colors on wings. ADULT FEMALE Has mottled buffish brown plumage. JUVENILE Similar to adult female, but complex feather markings are less well developed.

Dimensions Length: Male, 25-29" (64-74 cm); female, 21-23" (53-58 cm)

Habitat Several million occur in North America; numbers are declining due to changes in agricultural land use during breeding season. Favors marshy edge habitat and adjacent farmland for nesting. In winter, on arable fields, marshes, and estuaries.

Observation Tips Easiest to observe in winter. Often upends in water to feed, revealing striking vent colors and elongated tail.

Range Great Lakes, Alaska, Western Canada, Florida, Mid-Atlantic, Southwest, Southeast, Eastern Canada, New England, California, Rocky Mountains, Texas, Northwest, Plains

Voice Male utters a whistling call; female's call is grating and harsh.

Discussion An elegant duck. Feeds on aquatic plants by dabbling and upending; also feeds on land. Male is unmistakable; even rather drab female has distinctive, elongated appearance with pointed rear end. Unobtrusive during breeding season, but feeds in the open areas in flocks at other times. Looks long-winged in flight; male's gray wings and green speculum (with white trailing edge) are striking; female's white trailing edge on inner wing is obvious. Sexes are dissimilar in other respects.