Consistent with the need to better understand and manage Northern Pintail populations, the following is offered to guide discussions of research needs for this species.
The great mobility of this species complicates research efforts; as a result, significant information on its life history and population dynamics remain poorly understood. Coordination among conservation and management agencies and organizations is necessary for the large-scale investigations required to understand pintail ecology. Studies need to be comprehensive and of a magnitude and scale appropriate to produce results relevant to continental population dynamics. Northern Pintails are managed as a single continental population, but issues of population size and productivity need to be regularly assessed regionally to better understand drivers of population trends, model population dynamics, and predict population response to future changes in available habitat. Knowledge of Northern Pintail response to landscape features using long-term data sets and new field studies are needed to better understand pintail habitat selection relative to wetland types, upland composition, and other landscape features.
Long-term studies across a variety of geographic areas are needed to measure factors controlling annual variation in production (e.g., nesting effort, nest and hen success, duckling survival). Additional information is needed on geographic variation in recruitment and survival rates as well as the geographic relationships among nesting areas, migration stopover sites, and ultimate wintering locations.
Frequent monitoring of body condition, especially during spring migration, would produce critical information underlying population demography. The influence of habitat type and quality on body condition during nesting, molt, spring/fall migration, and wintering associated with cross-seasonal effects of condition on survival and productivity is needed.
Breeding surveys need to be modified to improve coverage of arctic, subarctic, and forested regions that may hold drought-displaced birds in some years.
Formal acceptance of an adjustment factor for proportion of birds missed during the breeding surveys during certain environmental conditions would aid in conservation efforts.
Habitat-management techniques need to be developed and assessed relative to changes in vital rates locally and regionally to enhance nesting effort, nest success, recruitment, and survival. Further investigations of drought displacement and settling patterns relative to environmental conditions and energetic demand are needed to better understand habitat-selection processes and productivity.
Understanding nutrition, energy metabolism, and daily energy expenditure during winter and migration relative to food selection and consumption may be particularly important to our understanding of Northern Pintails, given their opportunistic pattern of habitat selection. Habitat quality and factors influencing habitat selection during spring migration need to be identified and quantified. The role of nutrient reserves acquired during spring migration for breeding needs to be assessed.
On wintering areas, information is needed on the response of populations to provision of restored wetland habitats and increasing urbanization of agricultural and native habitats, food habitats from certain wintering regions (e.g., Mexico) and spring staging areas.
The significance of competition with other waterfowl species and wetlands and agricultural food resources needs to be explored.
Documentation of the frequency and extent of disease (e.g., avian cholera, avian botulism) outbreaks and associated impacts on local, regional, and continental populations are needed.
Improved winter surveys are also required to quantify wintering populations within smaller geographic areas.
Relationships among harvest, natural mortality, and annual and seasonal survival remain poorly understood. Refining recruitment models for Northern Pintails could improve development of harvest strategies within an Adaptive Harvest Management framework. In addition, banding efforts should focus more on Northern Pintails to improve estimates of annual survival and harvest rates.