Key facts

Scientific name: Anas acuta
Status: Resident breeding species and winter visitor

Breeding birds: 9-33 pairs

Wintering birds: 29,000

Conservation status: Green
Length: 51 – 66 cm
Wingspan: 80 – 95 cm
Weight: 735 – 1040 g


Male Northern pintails in breeding plumage have chocolate brown heads, napes and throats with a white stripe to the side. Their upperparts and flanks are streaked with grey and their upperwings are brown-grey with buff tips.

Their tails are white with a black centre, they have a bluish-grey bill with central stripe, brown eyes and grey legs and feet.

Female pintails have pale brown heads with dark spots. Their upperparts are dark brown and their bellies are pale. Their bills are duller than the males

Males out of breeding season look similar to females, as do juvenile pintails except they are more spotted and duller overall.


Pintails nest in pairs of scattered groups with the nests just a few metres apart. The nest is a shallow hole in the ground hidden by vegetation and it can sometimes be located up to 2 km away from water. The nest is lined with plant matter and down.

Pintails lay 7-9 white or yellowish-green eggs and they are incubated by the female for 21-25 days. Chicks are born with rust coloured down and a conspicuous eye stripe. They fledge 40-45 days after hatching and are cared for by the female alone.


Pintails are dabbling ducks and feed in shallow water on insects, molluscs and crustaceans as well as amphibians and small fish. On land they will eat grain and seeds.


Where to see them

Pintails can be seen all year round but especially from September to December when wintering birds are around. They are found on sheltered coasts and estuaries in particular the Dee Estuary, the Solway Estuary and the Ouse Washes.


Tero Linjama/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Pintails have earned the nickname ‘greyhound of the air’ due to their slender form and swift flight.

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