A pintail is a kind of duck belonging to the genus Anas and there are four species that fall under this genus. The four kinds of pintail ducks are yellow-beaked pintail, northern pintail, white-cheeked pintail, and Eaton's pintail. Out of these four, a northern pintail is also known as a pintail duck or a common pintail duck and it is the most commonly found kind of this bird.
The ecosystem of these ducks mostly includes wetlands. Northern pintails are found in the Northern Hemisphere during the summer. They fly long distances to the Southern Hemisphere where they spend the winter season. The flight speed of these ducks is also quite impressive. Pintail ducks are very commonly hunted, however, in North America, a permit is required to hunt them. The breeding season varies for each kind and breeding pairs usually perform various displays in front of each other. The tail feathers of this bird species are the inspiration for their name.
Pintails are birds that are found on several continents across the world. These birds feed on aquatic plants, seeds, and invertebrates.
A pintail duck belongs to the class Aves. There are four species of this bird under one genus.
Out of all the species of pintails, the northern pintail (Anas acuta) population is quite large. There are over seven million northern pintails in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, Eaton's pintails are not as common and have a population of about 60,000.
Northern pintails have a very wide range and can be found in North America, Europe, and Asia during the summer. In the winter, these birds take flight and travel from the north to the Southern Hemisphere and can even be seen as far down as Africa. Some of these birds also travel from the north to Hawaii to spend their winter. White-cheeked pintails are native to South America, the Galapagos Islands, and the Caribbean. Yellow-billed pintails can be seen in South America as well, along with south Georgia, and the Falkland Islands. Eaton's pintails have the most limited geographic range and can only be seen in the Kerguelen Islands and the Crozet Islands.
The habitat of these birds includes lakes, marshes, wetlands, and even grain fields. Their nest is built on the ground to make it easy for them to hunt for seeds, invertebrates, and aquatic plants. Also, the nest is normally somewhat away from a source of water.
Pintails generally display social behavior and live in groups. White-cheeked pintails are known to travel in small flocks.
Pintail ducks can live for around three years in the wild.
Pintails usually show monogamous behavior while breeding. The breeding season varies for different pintails. For example, the breeding season of northern pintails is from spring to summer. However, for white-cheeked pintails, breeding occurs throughout the year. After courtship displays and successful mating, female northern pintails lay between seven and nine eggs. These eggs are incubated by female ducks and the ducklings hatch after 22 to 24 days.
The conservation status of northern pintails along with yellow-beaked pintails and white-cheeked pintails is marked as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation Nature. However, their population has been decreasing. In North America, there has been a significant reduction in the population of northern pintails. The main threat they face is habitat loss and over-hunting. Eaton's pintails are marked as Vulnerable in the Red List and are at risk due to feral cats.
Male and female northern pintails (Anas acuta) have a slightly different appearance as their plumage are different colors. Males have a chocolate brown head and a white breast with a white stripe that extends from their breast to the side of their neck. They also have speckled feathers. A female pintail has a duller appearance and is gray in color. When compared to other dabbling ducks, pintails have a longer neck. Their bill appears bluish or gray. Apart from a northern pintail, white-cheeked pintails and yellow-billed pintails also appear quite unique due to their white cheeks and yellow bills, respectively. Eaton's pintails also are gray in color, similar to gray female northern pintails. The tail feathers of pintails are also distinct.
Pintail ducks are quite cute to look at. Their beautiful plumage, elongated neck, and characteristic tail gives them a beautiful appearance.
Pintail ducks can communicate using several calls and vocalizations. Northern pintail males are known to make a whistle-like sound, while females make a 'quack' sound. There are also courtship displays involved during the mating season.
The length of a northern pintail is between 20-30 in (50.8-76.2 cm). Female ducks are smaller in length than males. Mallard ducks are within the same range of length as the common or northern pintail. However, a northern pintail's neck is much more elongated when compared to a mallard.
A northern pintail duck can attain a flight speed of 65 mph (104.6 kph). These birds are migratory in nature and can cover really long distances in a very short time. White-cheeked pintails are also known to be fast fliers, but they are non-migratory in nature.
Common or northern pintails have a weight range of 1-3 lb (0.4-1.3 kg). Females are lighter than male pintails and usually have a maximum weight of 2.5 lb (1 kg).
Male and female pintail ducks are known as a 'pintail drake' and a 'pintail hen', respectively.
A baby pintail duck is known as a 'pintail duckling'.
Northern pintails have an omnivorous diet. They use their bill to feed on insects and other kinds of invertebrates. They also eat various kinds of aquatic plants, seeds, barley, and oats. Ducklings mainly feed on insects that they can find on the ground.
Pintails are not known to be particularly aggressive towards humans. However, northern pintails damage crops and fields.
Northern pintail or common pintail ducks are not really kept as pets as they might not be suitable to be domesticated. In many areas in North America, these birds are not legally allowed to be owned as pets.
Kidadl Advisory: All pets should only be bought from a reputable source. It is recommended that as a potential pet owner you carry out your own research prior to deciding on your pet of choice. Being a pet owner is very rewarding but it also involves commitment, time and money. Ensure that your pet choice complies with the legislation in your state and/or country. You must never take animals from the wild or disturb their habitat. Please check that the pet you are considering buying is not an endangered species, or listed on the CITES list, and has not been taken from the wild for the pet trade.
The name pintail was given to these ducks due to their tail feathers. Their tails are usually quite long and narrow towards the end forming a sharp point, resembling a pin.
The easiest pintail calling method is by making a 'trill' sound by rolling your tongue.
Northern pintail ducks are found quite abundantly in North America and other parts of this region. However, this species has seen a decline in its population in North America. Nevertheless, there are seven million individuals belonging to this species, and so they are not considered to be rare. Both white-cheeked and yellow-billed pintail duck species have a declining population but cannot be considered rare either as their range is quite huge and they can be commonly seen. Southern or Eaton's pintail ducks are considered to be rare as they are restricted to a few islands and their population size is no more than 60,000.
Pintail ducks are also known as dabbling ducks. This is because these ducks 'dabble' instead of diving. Unlike diving ducks who can be seen to submerge completely underwater, dabbling pintail ducks only submerge their head and upper part of the body. Their tails can be seen sticking out from the surface of the water.
Pintail calls can be heard from quite a distance away. A male can usually be heard whistling, while a pintail female makes a 'quack' sound. In white-cheeked pintails, females engage in making high-low 'quack' sounds when they cannot find their mates.
You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our duck coloring pages.