The Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge - New Jersey
Northern Pintails are long, slender ducks with long, narrow wings,
earning them the nickname "greyhound of the air." Pintails
are named for their elongated central tail feathers, which constitute
one-fourth of the drake's body length.
Slightly bigger than a mallard, these long-necked and small-headed ducks fly with a curved back pointed wings and a tapering tail, making this the best way to distinguish them from other ducks.
The drake Pintail is perhaps the most handsome of our ducks, the very
epitome of grace and elegance. His most distinctive identification
feature is the wavy white stripe extending up the side of his
otherwise brown neck, but birds with their necks hidden can still be
told by their white chests, grey bodies, black and yellow undertails
and of course, the long spiky tails. The female Pintail lacks the
colorful plumage and the tail spike but are still unmistakably
elegant, with slender, almost swan-like necks, small plain heads and
long slim grey bills. In flight the Pintail looks distinctively
slender thanks mainly to their long necks and long pointed tails. In
both male and female, it is the white trailing edge to the speculum
which is most conspicuous.
Northern Pintails are wary, especially during their flightless stage in late summer, when they are highly secretive. They will forage on land, but find most of their food by dabbling in shallow, muddy water.