Anas acuta
(Northern Pintail)

Order: Anseriformes
Order Description: Swans, Geese, Ducks
Family: Anatidae
Family Description: Swans, Geese and Ducks

Physical Description:
Size: Male 25-29" (64-74 cm), Female 20.5-22.5" (52-57 cm). The adult male pintail has a brown head and white neck with a conspicuous white stripe that runs up onto the side of the brown of the head. Males also have a long, needle- pointed tail. Body grayish with some black on the wings. Females are mottled brown with a slender neck, bluish bill and somewhat pointed tail.

Similar Species- Female Mallards are heavier with a shorter, thicker neck, blue speculum bordered by white. Female Gadwalls have a white speculumClick word for definition.

Males give a higher Dreeep-eep. Females a low quacking.

Breeds from Alaskan tundra, through Canada to western and central United States. Winters from eastern and southeastern coastal U.S., Great Lakes, southeastern Alaska, southwestern British Columbia, and western and southwestern U.S., south to Colombia and Venezuela.

Found on lakes, rivers, marshes, and ponds in grasslands, barrens, dry tundra, and open boreal forests. Also found in cultivated fields. During migration and in winter, found in both freshwater and brackishClick word for definition situations. In Idaho, prefers lowland marshes for feeding and nesting, but may winter on small creeks and reservoirs.

Eats various plants and animals, depending on availability. Feeds on seeds and nutlets of aquatic plants (sedges, grasses, pondweeds, smartweeds); also eats mollusks, crabs, minnows, worms, fairy shrimp, aquatic insects, and waste grain. Animal foods are important to females during pre-laying and laying periods. Juveniles eat mostly insects.

Dabbles for food; may also feed in fields and on tidal flats. Builds nest on ground. Northern Alaska study found 0.3- 1.5 nests/km2, in various locations. One to 1.8 nests/km2 found in prairie pothole country. Female and broodClick word for definition may move among different ponds during first few weeks after hatching. Species nests commonly in southeaster Idaho, and sparingly in northern Idaho, but is frequent fall and spring migrant known to winter in many parts of state. An Idaho study suggested that avian (Black-billed Magpies) and mammalian predators may significantly affect nest success in some wildlife management areas.

clutchClick word for definition size varies depending on age of parents (6-10 eggs for adults, 5-7 for yearlingsClick word for definition); adults nest earlier than do yearlings. Female incubatesClick word for definition eggs; incubation lasts 21-25 days. Male abandons female early in incubation. precocialClick word for definition nestlings are tended by female, with male usually present. Young fledge in about 6-7 wk.

Element Code: ABNJB10110
Status: Game species
Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5
National Rank: N5B,N5N

Important State References:
Gazda, R.J. 1994. Duck productivity and nest predation in southeastern Idaho. M.S. Thesis, Univ. of Montana, Missoula. 61pp.

Photos by Jeff Spendelow, George Jameson, and C. Trost,© 1999
Design by Ean Harker©1999, 2000.
Written by Jason Karl, 2000.