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 speculum.
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 brackish 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 brood 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.
clutch size varies depending on age of parents (6-10 eggs for adults, 5-7 for yearlings); adults nest earlier than do yearlings. Female incubates eggs; incubation lasts 21-25 days. Male abandons female early in incubation. precocial nestlings are tended by female, with male usually present. Young fledge in about 6-7 wk.
Gazda, R.J. 1994. Duck productivity and nest predation in southeastern Idaho. M.S. Thesis, Univ. of Montana, Missoula. 61pp.