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Pintail Ducks

Order: Anseriformes - Ducks, geese and swans, and screamers
Family:Anatidae - Ducks, geese, swans.

Scientific Name:  Anas acuta


Pintail DucksDescription:  Adults are 2 feet long with a wingspan of about 3 feet.  Males weigh 1.5 - 3 lbs. while females weigh 1-1.5 lbs.  They are known to have a longer neck.  The male call is a nasal whistle while the female quacks.  Male plumage consists of a rich brown head and neck; white belly; gray sides and back; and bronze-green and white plumage toward tail.  Black feathers under the tail; bill is medium gray with a dark line down the top.  The tail is long, dark, pointed and adds about 4 in. to total length.  Their long, pointed tail influences their name.  Female plumage is medium brown with pale tips on feathers; smoky brown on sides and back.  Females have darker bill than males.  The female tail is pointed but lacks long streamers.


RangeHome Range:  Found throughout the northern hemisphere during summer months. In winter months, it flies as far south as Central America and Central Africa.
Habitat Type:  Wetlands, lagoons, rivers, shallow lakes, marshes, and ponds with dense vegetation, surrounded by low, dry land.  In winter it can be found on estuaries and coasts.


Reproductive Habits:  Pintails reach sexual maturity at 1 year.  Breeding season is April - July.  Courtship begins in the winter, but firm pair bonds are not established until the spring migration.  The drake (male) courts by circling the hen with his neck out-stretched and flicking water with his bill.  If she accepts him, the female leads him away from the other drakes.  They nest on open ground or among tall grasses and may be half a mile from water.  Once she begins to incubate her eggs, her mate will leave to join up with a group with other drakes.  The clutch of 7-9 eggs hatches after about 4 weeks.  To lure predators away from the nest, the female frequently fakes injury by pretending to have a broken wing.  The female is very protective of her brood, resulting in low death rates among ducklings.  The ducklings usually fledge in 6 weeks.  


Diet in Wild:  Live prey such as insect larvae, shrimp, tadpoles, mollusks, and snails.  In colder months, they eat seeds, grasses, tubers and roots.


Diet in Zoo:  Cracked corn, layer ration, and naturally growing plants in and around the duck pond.


General Info:  Named for the tail streamers of the boldly patterned male, the pintail is one of the most common and widely distributed of all ducks.  They are a social and migratory duck.  Pintail’s can relocate easily, and are quick to do so to take advantage of new feeding grounds.  They can adapt their diet to whatever food supplies are locally available.  It can survive in a variety of conditions.  They commonly appear after a flood to feed.  They hunt for food in the muddy beds of lakes and rivers.  They dip for 6 seconds or so, then surface briefly, then go under again.  They rarely dive for food, hunting in water up to one foot deep.
Pintails are agile in flight, and zigzag to the ground when landing.  Rapid wing beats of a passing flock of pintails produce a hissing sound that can be heard over a long distance.  Aerial chases, with a lot of amorous males chasing a single female, may end with the female being forced to mate.  In displays of hostility, pintails arch their neck and lower their tail.
Pintail populations are stable, and not in any danger.  Humans have affected their habitats in some areas, but the pintail’s ability to relocate allows it to avoid these threats.



Wildlife Fact File. 1991.  Group 2: Birds.  Card #179.

Ducks, Geese and Swans of the World.  1978.  P.A. Johnsgard.  University of Nebraska Press.  Lincoln and London.  pp. 233-236.

Handbook of the Birds of the World.  Vol. 1.  1992.  J. del Hoyo; A. Elliot; J.Sargatal.  Lynx Edicions.  Barcelona.  pp. 608.