The Pintail is a fairly large duck with a wingspan of 80-95 cm (31-37 in). The male is 59-76 cm (23-30 in) long and weighs 450-1,360 g. It is more slender, elongated and gracile than a Mallard, with a longer neck and tail. The breeding male has a chocolate-brown head and white breast with a white stripe. Its upperparts and sides are grey, but elongated grey feathers with black central stripes are draped across the back from the shoulder area. The vent area is yellow, contrasting with the black underside of the tail. The bill is bluish and the legs are blue-grey. The adult female is mainly scalloped and mottled in light brown with a more uniformly grey-brown head, and its pointed tail is shorter than the male's. it is still easily identified by its shape, long neck, and long grey bill. Non-breeding males look similar to the female, but retain the male upperwing pattern and long grey shoulder feathers.

Habitat and Distribution

This dabbling duck breeds across northern areas of Eurasia south to about Poland and Mongolia, and in Canada, Alaska and the Midwestern United States. It winters mainly south of its breeding range, reaching Panama, northern sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South Asia. Small numbers migrate to Pacific islands, particularly Hawaii. Its breeding habitat is open unwooded wetlands, such as wet grassland, lakesides or tundra. In winter they will utilise estuaries and marshes.


The Pintail feeds by dabbling and upending in shallow water for plant food mainly in the evening or at night, and therefore spends much of the day resting. Its long neck enables it to take food items from the bottom of water bodies.


Breeding takes place between April and June, with the nest being constructed on the ground and hidden amongst vegetation in a dry location, often some distance from water. It is a shallow scrape on the ground lined with plant material and down. The female lays seven to nine cream-coloured eggs at the rate of one per day. The hen alone incubates the eggs for 22 to 24 days before they hatch.

Calls and Songs

The male's call is a soft proop-proop whistle, similar to that of the Common Teal, whereas the female has a Mallard-like descending quack, and a low croak when flushed.