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Pintail

The pintail (Anas acuta) is a surface-feeding duck that is a partial migrant. It breeds mainly in northern and eastern Europe and a few sites in the British Isles, but winters on coastal marshes, estuaries and inland wetlands. Some European populations winter in central Africa.

The pintail measures about 560 mm (22 inches) in length. It is easily identified by its long neck and long pointed tail. The male has a brown head with a white streak running up each side of the head from the breast, which is also white. The upper parts and flanks are mainly grey and the undertail coverts are black.

Female and juvenile pintails (and males after moulting) are brown with darker streaks.

The bill is blue-grey and the legs greyish.

Pintails do not make a lot of noise – females have a quiet quack and the males a low-pitched whistle.

In flight, pintails can be distinguished from other ducks by their long necks, pointed wings and tapering tails. They sometimes fly high in small groups in a V formation.

Food for pintails consists of both plant and animal matter that is taken from the water, often by up-ending. Plant food includes pond weeds, sedges and grasses. They will also eat water beetles, insect larvae and snails.

When breeding, a nest is made on the ground at a sheltered site within 200 metres of water. A hollow is lined with grass, leaves and down feathers supplied by the female. The female incubates up to nine eggs for three to four weeks, with the male often abandoning the female at this stage.

The young can feed themselves and swim soon after hatching and can fly at 40 days.

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