Anas acuta (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Anseriformes > Anatidae
The Pintail is an elegant duck, long-necked, long-billed and long-tailed – the last feature giving the bird its name.
Both male and female Pintail share the long, slender dark grey bill, but the male's chocolate head and neck with creamy throat stand out. Pintail are predominantly winter visitors to Britain, preferring sheltered coasts, grazing marshes and estuaries. Key concentrations are found on the estuaries of both south and north Wales, and in Lancashire, although the species can be found throughout Britain and Ireland where there is suitable winter habitat.
The Pintail is a rare and localised breeding bird, widely dispersed, but most likely to be found breeding in coastal East Anglia and the northern and western isles of Scotland. Bird Atlas 2007–11 reported fewer breeding records than the previous atlas.
Select a topic for more facts and statistics about the Pintail
Pintail identification is often straightforward. The following article may help when identifying Pintail.
Ducks are usually easy to identify, but the females can be more challenging. Many of our familiar dabbling ducks have subtly-plumaged brown females which, on first glance, appear similar. This workshop will help you tell them apart with confidence.
Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Pintail, provided by xeno-canto contributors.
Develop your bird ID skills with our training courses
Our interactive online courses are a great way to develop your bird identification skills, whether you're new to the hobby or a competent birder looking to hone your abilities.Browse training courses
Status and Trends
Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.
This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.
The Pintail has a small and very localised breeding population, monitored by the RBBP, with a five-year mean of 28 breeding pairs over the period 2015–2019, mostly in Scotland, which represents a weak decrease over the 25 years to 2019 (Eaton et al. 2021). Over the longer term, there has also been a decrease (-32%) since 1968–72, in the number of 10-km squares where breeding Atlas evidence has been recorded (Balmer et al. 2013).
|UK winter population
|-28% decrease (1995/96 to 2020/21)
The winter distribution map reveals preferences for grazing marshes, river floodplains, sheltered coasts and estuaries while the relative abundance map confirms the importance of estuaries throughout most of Britain & Ireland for this species. The Pintail is a rare and localised breeder with clusters of records only in Orkney, North Uist, Tiree, the East Anglian coast and the Ouse Washes and isolated records elsewhere.
Occupied 10-km squares in UK
|No. occupied in breeding season
|% occupied in breeding season
|No. occupied in winter
|% occupied in winter
European Distribution Map
Accompanying a long-term population increase there has been a 34% increase in Pintail range size in Britain in winter since the 1981–84 Winter Atlas, and notable gains include the Northern Isles and eastern fringes of the Scottish coast, with more extensive gains farther south into England and Wales.
Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK
|% change in range in breeding season (1968–72 to 2008–11)
|% change in range in winter (1981–84 to 2007–11)
Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.
An overview of year-round movements for the whole of Europe can be seen on the EuroBirdPortal viewer.
Lifecycle and body size information about Pintail, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.
View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report
|Maximum Age from Ringing
|15 years 11 months 20 days (set in 1986)
|3 years with breeding typically at 1 year
|0.663 (Male: 0.712±0.037 Female: 0.614±0.067)
|269.7±12.8 | Range 250–287mm, N=429
|263.6±10.3 | Range 249-280mm, N=184
|276.8±10.3 | Range 264–289mm, N=253
|259.4±8.2 | Range 244–270mm, N=176
|934±171.7 | Range 660–1220g, N=339
|812±144.2485 | Range 620–1050g, N=168
|1.03±0.14 | Range 0.790–1.25kg, N=188
|819±131.3 | Range 620–1050g, N=151
Feather measurements and photos on featherbase
|2-letter: PT | 5-letter code: PINTA | Euring: 1890
For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name
Interpretation and scientific publications about Pintail from BTO scientists.
Causes of change
The declining trend in the UK is in line with range losses occurring in Fennoscandia and central Europe (Keller et al. 2020). However, the reasons for the UK declines are unclear.
Links to more information from ConservationEvidence.com
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