This cosmopolitan species breeds from Alaska and the central Canadian Arctic across Greenland, Iceland and Scandinavia to Kamchatka, in Russia, and south to the western and central United States, the United Kingdom, Central Europe and the Caspian Sea. It winters at more southern locations, including north and east Africa, southern Europe, South and Central America, southern Asia, and some Micronesian islands.
This faily large duck is 50-65 cm long and has a wingspan of 80-95 cm. They weigh around 850 g.
The northern pintail breeds on open, lowland moors, marshes and grasslands around freshwater, brackish or salty lakes, rivers, floodplains, ponds and pools. During the winter it may also be found in estuaries, tidal flats, river deltas and coastal lagoons.
This omnivorous and oportunistic species has a varied diet that includes algae, seeds, tubers and grasses, as well as aquatic insects, amphibians and small fish.
The northern pintail breeds in April-June. They nest in either solitary pairs or loose groups, and tends to construct nest further away from water than most other duck species. The nest is a slight hollow on the ground, lined with grass and down, amongst dense vegetation or under a bush. The female lays 7-9 eggs cream-coloured eggs, which she incubates alone for 22-24 days. Soon after hatching, the precocial chicks are led by the female to the nearest body of water, where they feed on dead insects on the water surface. The chicks fledge 46-47 days after hatching, but stay with the female until she completed her moult.
IUCN status – LC (Least concern)
With a global population estimated at 5.300.000-5.400.000 individuals and an extremely large breeding range, this species is not threatened. Despite this, the loss of wetland habitats and the reclamation of coastal areas for development, together with increased polution of water bodies have a negative impact on this species.