South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Northern Pintail

Anas acuta

Length: 20 to 26 inches Wingspan: 28 to 36 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Brown head with white stripe near back (male), gray body, long tail

Northern Pintail - Anas acutaThe Northern Pintail is one of the most widespread and common ducks in the world, and is found in Europe and Asia as well as North America.  Pintails are generally very wary and difficult to approach in all seasons. 

Habitat: Marshland and shallow lakes or ponds with emergent wetland vegetation.  Nests are in dense vegetation growth, often very near water but sometimes up to half a mile away from the nearest water source. 

Diet: A variety of items, but mostly plant material and insects.  The winter diet is largely plant material, especially seeds, roots, and waste grain.  Insects and the occasional mollusk, crustacean, or small fish become a significant part of the diet in the summer.

Behavior: Forages by dipping its head below the surface in shallow water, finding the majority of its food in the mud bottom beneath the water.  Will also forage on land occasionally.

Nesting: April through June

Breeding Map: Breeding bird survey map

Song: Northern Pintail call 

Migration: Summers through the northern half of the U.S., Canada, and Alaska.  Winters throughout much of the southern half of the U.S., and U.S. and Canadian coastlines. 

Similar Species: The male is generally quite distinctive, while the female can look similar to many dabbling ducks.

Conservation Status: Common throughout most of its range, but they have declined significantly since the 1960's.

Further Information: 1) Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Northern Pintail

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Northern Pintail"

3) Northern Pintail

Photo Information: May 14th, 2010 - Kingsbury County, South Dakota -- Terry L. Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Northern Pintail photos.


Click on the range map for a higher-resolution view
Range Map - Northern Pintail
South Dakota Status: Common migrant and summer resident throughout the state.  Rare in winter.