Northern pintail Northern pintail

This is one classy duck!

Fun Critter Facts

One of the most beautiful of our duck species, this species is very popular with both hunters and non-hunters.  Referred to as the "gentleman" of waterfowl, this classy appearing duck is said to "never cheat" (meaning it eats fish, resulting in lowered palatability) and is always "dressed" in formal wear, especially the male in breeding plumage.  As the name implies, this duck is equipped with elongated and pointed central tail feathers, and the bird is commonly referred to as a "sprig," which refers to the long pointed tail.  Male pintails, or "bull sprigs," are high on a waterfowl hunter's list of desirable species.

Like most waterfowl, northern pintails are ground nesters, and seek short vegetation to nest in, sometimes far from water.  They have been documented nesting in cultivated croplands. Males and females form pairs in winter, but the male is far from monogamous, and may mate with several females during breeding. Epic battles and displays often occur between males during this time period, and females may be repeatedly chased by rival males until nesting is initiated. The females construct a number of nest scrapes before settling on her favorite.  Females lay three to a dozen eggs, and incubates them for about 23 days. Young are precocial, meaning they are immediately able to leave the nest and begin foraging with mom following hatch.

Pintails fall victim to a number of threats, and populations have declined (leading to conservative bag limits).  The greatest threat to populations is habitat loss and conversion of wetlands to croplands or other human developments. Drought can also have a significant annual impact on populations through reduced production of young. Hunting is highly regulated and results in no population level impact.  Pintails are prey for a number of species, from nest predators like skunks, red foxes and raccoons, to eagles and other raptors, coyotes and red foxes that may occasionally feed on an adult bird.  However, predation is not viewed as a major threat if adequate habitat occurs.   

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