This beautiful duck may sometimes be confused with Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) because of similar coloring, body types and habits.
Adult males and females are of similar size, measuring 30 inches (76.2 cm) in length and weighing up to 3 pounds (1.4 kg). Females and immature male pintails look similar, with dappled brown bodies and white wings. Adult male pintails are more striking, however. Their heads are chocolate brown with a white stripe extending up the back of the neck. The rear and upper back are black or dark gray bordered by patches of pale yellow. The duck’s sleek profile is most recognizable during flight, when the long neck and tail feathers are fully extended.
Northern Pintails will spend most of the day floating on the open water where they will filter-feed at the surface. On land, they will forage on grains, seeds and plants. They will also consume insects and various crustaceans.
This duck breeds in the northernmost latitudes of Canada and Alaska and will migrate to the southern United States and Mexico during the winter. They nest in open country around the edges of wetlands where low-lying vegetation will conceal them from predators. In the Pacific Northwest, they can be found near inland freshwater lakes and intertidal areas.