Pintails are long,
slender ducks with long, narrow wings, earning them the nickname "the greyhound of
the air." The length of the neck in relation to the torso is longer on the pintail
than on any other duck. Males have a dark brown head with a white stripe on each side of
the neck coming up from the white breast and belly. The back is blackish gray and the rump
has a white patch on each side. The central tail feathers are black and elongated, making
up one-fourth of the drakes length. The speculum is iridescent greenish black, which may
help with identification on the wing. Females have a dark brown upper body, with lighter
brown or gray head and lower body. The female's speculum is a dull brown or bronze.
Average length: M 25", F
M 2.2 lbs., F 1.9 lbs.
Migrating and Wintering
Pintails are one of
the first ducks to migrate south in the fall and north in the spring. Over half of the
pintails in North America migrate through California. The majority of these remain in
California for the winter but some continue on to the west coast of Mexico or to northern
South America. The Central flyway is used by pintails that breed in Canada and winter in
the Texas panhandle, Gulf Coast of Texas, and western Louisiana. Pintails use the
Mississippi flyway between breeding grounds in Manitoba and eastern Canada and wintering
grounds in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Along coastal wintering grounds, pintails
concentrate on shallow fresh or brackish estuaries adjacent to agricultural areas.
across Canada, the northern United States and into eastern Siberia. Prairie and tundra
habitats are extremely important to pintails, providing shallow marshes and lakes with low
and dense vegetation around the edges. Pintails prefer to nest in dry locations, which can
be up to a mile from the nearest water.