Anas is a genus of dabbling ducks. It includes mallards, wigeons, teals, pintails and shovelers in a number of subgenera. Some authorities prefer to elevate the subgenera to genus rank. Indeed, as the moa-nalos are very close to this clade and may have evolved later than some of these lineages, it is rather the absence of a thorough review than lack of necessity that this genus is rather over-lumped. The phylogeny of this genus is one of the most confounded ones of all living birds. Research is hampered by the fact the radiation of the two major groups of Anas ? the teals and mallard groups ? took place in a very short time and fairly recently, roughly in the mid-late Pleistocene. Furthermore, hybridization may have long played a major role in Anas evolution, with within-subgenus hybrids regularly and between-subgenus hybrids not infrequently being fully fertile. The relationships between species are much obscured by this fact, and mtDNA sequence data is of dubious value in resolving their relationships; on the other hand, nuclear DNA sequences evolve too slowly to resolve the phylogeny of the subgenus Anas for example. Some major clades can be discerned. For example, that the traditional subgenus Anas, the mallard group, forms a monophyletic (in the loose sense, i.e. non-holophyletic) group has never been seriously questioned by modern science and is as good as confirmed (but see below). On the other hand, the phylogeny of the teals is very confusing. For these reasons, the dabbling duck lineages more distantly related to mallard group (which includes the type species of Anas) than the wigeons should arguably be separated in their own genera. These would include the Baikal Teal, the Garganey, the spotted black-capped Punanetta group, and the shovelers and other blue-winged species. Whether the wigeons, which are very distinct in morphology and behavior, but much less so in mtDNA cytochrome b and NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 sequences, should also be considered a distinct genus Mareca (including the Gadwall and Falcated Duck) is essentially the one remaining point of dispute as regards the question which taxa should remain in this genus and which ones should not.
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 colourful 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.
Listen to the sound of Northern Pintail
Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto
|wingspan min.:||79||cm||wingspan max.:||87||cm|
|size min.:||51||cm||size max.:||62||cm|
|incubation min.:||22||days||incubation max.:||24||days|
|fledging min.:||40||days||fledging max.:||24||days|
In winter on coastal lagoons of brackish waters.
Feeds by dabbling, upending and head-dipping in shallow water. Sometimes grazes on dry land.
Video Northern Pintail
Anas acuta is a widespread breeder in much of northern and parts of central Europe, which accounts for less than a quarter of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is large (>320,000 pairs), but underwent a large decline between
1970-1990. Although it was stable or increased across much of its European range during 1990-2000, the stronghold population in Russia continued to decline, and the species underwent a moderate decline (>10%) overall.
This duck is breeding in northern Eurasia and North America. For practical reasons its populations of the European Union can be subdivided in two distinct sub-populations, separated by their wintering quarters. The first, totalling about 60000 individuals, is wintering in the Atlantic regions from Denmark to the British Isles and Aquitaine. The second population is estimated at 1200000 individuals. It winters around the Mediterranean and in West Africa. These two populations are not strictly separated and many birds are shifting from one to the other. Nevertheless this species is declining in western Europe, fluctuating in Central Europe and the Mediterranean.
Widespread and common throughout North America, Europe, and Asia, the Northern Pintail is probably one of the most numerous species of duck worldwide. Numbers in North America vary a great deal from year to year, although some surveys have recorded significant, long-term declines since the 1960s. Predators and farming operations destroy many thousands of Northern Pintail nests each year. Farming has also affected nesting habitat. Pintails appear to be responding to new conservation practices, however, including habitat restoration and tighter restrictions on hunting, and numbers seem to be increasing. If these practices are maintained, Northern Pintails should be able to maintain a healthy population in North America.