The Robinson Library
The Robinson Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Birds >> Order Anseriformes
Northern Pintail

Anas acuta; aka Sprig


Pintails are fairly small ducks, having a wingspan of about 9 to 11 inches, a body length of 23 to 30 inches and weighing between 1 and 3 pounds. Males are slightly larger than females.

pair of Northern Pintails

Adult male pintails have a dark brown head and white breast with a white streak extending up the side of the head. They have black and white speckled feathers on their back, and a yellow patch of feathers just above and behind their feet. They also have a long, thin tail feather than can measure up to 4 inches long. This feather narrows down to a sharp point and is where they get their common name. Adult females have more a drab, gray color, and her "pin tail" feather is only about an inch long. Both sexes have bluish-gray bills.

Immature pintails are generally buff colored; their bills are dark, their heads range in color from dark brown to tan, their bellies are speckled white and brown, and their tail feathers are dark, with cream-colored eges.

Distribution and Habitat

During the summer northern pintails are found mainly in the Northern Hemisphere, as far south as Poland and Mongolia in Eurasia and California in North America. In the winter, they migrate to the Southern Hemisphere, including parts of Africa and all of Mexico; some even make their way to Hawaii -- they are, in fact, the most plentiful of the migrating ducks in Hawaii. They live in marshes, ponds, lakes, rivers, canals, and occasionally grain fields.


Mating season begins in early May and continues until the end of July. Seven to nine cream-colored eggs are laid, one per day, and incubated by the hen alone for 22 to 24 days. Ducklings can swim and feed almost immediately after hatching, and fledge at about 47 days. The family will stay together until the hen re-grows her flight feathers, upon which time she leaves the chicks

Pintails become sexually mature at one year.


Pintails are dabbling ducks, meaning they submerge their head and upper half of their body to feed on snails, water bugs and roots of aquatic plants. On land they will feed on grains, seeds, leaves, nuts, and insects.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Aves
order Anseriformes
family Anatidae
subfamily Anatinae
genus & species Anas acuta

Animal Diversity Web

Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Birds >> Order Anseriformes

This page was last updated on March 22, 2018.