The Northern Pintail is a dabbling duck distinct primarily due to its elongated neck and tail. These filter-feeders have grey legs and bluish-black bills with serrated edges perfect for sifting through food in the water.
The white on the male chest tapers up along the sides of the neck, contrasting nicely with their rufous-brown heads; their sides are a soft grey colour that mingles into their mottled black and grey backs. Females are a more mottled brown colour all around with lighter wing tips.
The call of the male Northern Pintail consists of short whistles and drawn out mewing notes, while females have a quack that sounds deeper than that of a Mallard.
Photo by Rick Leche
Northern Pintails breed shortly after the winter thaw, earlier than most breeding ducks in North America. They are ground nesters, however they are not always successful due to mammal predation. Their preferred nesting sites are in open habitats with low vegetation along shallow ponds and marshes.
Generally Northern Pintails feed at night on seeds, algae, grains, aquatic invertebrates, and other living creatures inhabiting shallow water bodies, while they are known to flock together on open water bodies during the day in order to safely roost. They feed on agricultural fields in Delta, including winter cover cropped fields.
Though they are abundant birds in the west and range across the globe more than any other waterfowl, their population is currently in decline throughout North America. The Canadian prairies provide prime habitat for Northern Pintails, who will often nest in cropland. Farming practices such as summer fallowing were once beneficial for the ducks, however the practice is becoming less-common and thus their population is in decline.