Northern Pintail

Anas acuta
Northern Pintail specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A large (26-30 inches) duck, the male Northern Pintail is most easily identified by its gray back and flanks, white neck, dark brown head, and long, pin-like tail. Female Northern Pintails are mottled tan overall and, relative to the male, have shorter tails and bills. Males are almost unmistakable in their range and habitat, while females may be distinguished from other tan female ducks by their longer necks. The Northern Pintail inhabits much of the Northern Hemisphere. In the New World, this species breeds in Alaska, Canada, and the northern United States, wintering from western Canada and the southern half of the United States south to Central American and the West Indies. In the Old World, this specie breeds from Iceland and Scandinavia east to Siberia, wintering in Europe, North and East Africa, South Asia, and several islands in the western Pacific Ocean. Northern Pintails breed in shallow marshes, ponds, and lakes, primarily those surrounded by prairie or tundra. During the winter, this species may be found in freshwater or saltwater wetland habitats, including lakes, marshes, and estuaries. Northern Pintails eat a variety of plant and animal foods, including seeds, aquatic plants, insects, and other small invertebrates. Northern Pintails may be seen swimming on small to medium-sized bodies of water, where they may be observed foraging for food. This species may also be observed taking off straight up from the water or undertaking straight, swift flights on migration or between breeding or foraging grounds. Northern Pintails are most active during the day.

DC Information

Common migrant and winter resident from late August to early May. Found in ponds, tidal marshes, lakes, and estuaries. The white breast and cheeks are restricted to the male.

Specimen Information

The bird on the left is a male.
Date:  3/2/1894
Collected By:  Edward J Brown
Locality:  Little River, DC
Sex:  Male
Catalog ID:  220368
The bird on the right is a female.
Date:  3/9/1917
Collected By:  Natl Zoo Park
Locality:  Washington, DC
Sex:  Female
Catalog ID:  253474

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalization

Anas acuta