Northern Pintail

Hey guys, welcome back! Today we dive (or rather dabble) back into the world of ducks. The northern pintail is one of the most abundant duck species in the world, being found throughout the northern hemisphere from the arctic south to northern South America and north-central Africa. Here in the US, they can be found in every state (even Hawaii.) Like most birds, they migrate at night, sometimes in excess of a thousand miles at a time!

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Male northern pintail, Central Park, NY

Like most ducks, the northern pintail is sexually dimorphic. Females are a mottled brown, but can be ID’d by their graphite-gray bills and long, slender neck. Males are richly colored, featuring a chocolate brown head, with a cream colored breast, gray back, maroon speculum, and long black and white tail. They tend to be found in large flocks on their breeding grounds which are located throughout most of Canada, and the northern Great Plains. Here in Ohio, they show up during migration.

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Northern Pintail, St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis, MO

Females, as I’ve mentioned are a mottled brown, like many female ducks. This can make it a bit more tricky to ID them, especially when it’s the first time you’re seeing them. That was the case the first time I saw one (or so I thought.) I was at a small pond in Central Park known as the Pool.  There among the mallards was what I thought at first to be just another mallard. Then I noticed is was slightly more slender, and had a dark gray bill. Well, I knew then it wasn’t a mallard. I went through duck species in my head. It wasn’t a gadwall or a teal or a shoveler. Then I thought perhaps it was a pintail. I double checked with my Merlin app and sure enough it was! The bird remained in the park for the winter, although it moved to the Pond at the southern end of the park a few days later. Over the course of the winter, it became clear that this wasn’t a female pintail, but a male! When I had spotted it, it was in eclipse plumage! Eventually it molted into its breeding plumage before leaving in early spring to breed. The bird then became a regular winter visitor to the park (or at least I assume it was the same bird but who knows.) That’ll wrap it up for today. Next up is a western bird, that I saw in New York City of all places. Western tanager is next. See you then!

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