Northern Pintail

Anas acuta



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Geographic Variation

North American breeders average slightly larger than Eurasian breeders, and some lack the bronzy cast to the green speculum. In a w. Texas study, genetic variation was higher in Anas acuta than it was in other species of dabbling ducks (Rhodes et al. 1991). Mitochondrial DNA was found to be homogeneous among breeders collected from Alaska, prairie Canada, and Montana (Cronin et al. 1996).


No subspecies, following Hellmayr and Conover (1948), who presented data (p. 357) that Anas acuta tzitzihoa Vieillot, 1816, of North America could not be diagnosed from A. a. acuta Linnaeus, 1758, of Eurasia. Additional junior synonyms of A. acuta are A. longicauda Brisson, 1760; A. subulata Gmelin, 1774; A. alandica Sparrmann, 1788; A. sparrmanni Latham, 1790; A. caudacuta Pallas, 1811; and A. caudata Brehm, 1830.

Related Species

The order Anseriformes is speciose lineage of familiar birds, the ducks, geese, and swans (Anatidae), as well as the less familiar trio of screamers (Anhimidae) of South America and Anseranas semipalmata, the Magpie Goose (Anseranatidae) of Australia and New Guinea. Within the waterfowl lineage (Anatidae, sensu Livezey 1997), the dabbling ducks (mostly genus Anas) are a species-rich and widespread group that includes some of the most iconic birds, such as Anas platyrhynchos, the Mallard.

Anas acuta is part of a superspecies complex that includes A. georgica, the Yellow-billed Pintail of South America, and A. eatoni, Eaton's Pintail of Kerguelen and Crozets Is. (Sibley and Monroe 1990). This complex and the various other pintails are sister to A. capensis, the Cape Teal of sub-Saharan Africa (González et al. 2009).

As with virtually all ducks, hybridization is rife. A. acuta is known to have hybridized in the wild (Alison and Prevett 1976, Palmer 1976, McCarthy 2006) with A. americana (the American Wigeon), A. clypeata (Northern Shoveler), A. formosa (Baikal Teal), A. penelope (Eurasian Wigeon), Anas platyrhynchos, A. querquedula (Garganey), A. strepera (Gadwall), A. superciliosa (Pacific Black Duck), A. undulata (Yellow-billed Duck), Aythya ferina (Common Pochard), Netta rufina (Red-crested Pochard), and, most remarkably, Somateria mollissima (Common Eider). In addition, it has interbred in captivity with numerous other species (see McCarthy 2006).

Recommended Citation

Clark, R. G., J. P. Fleskes, K. L. Guyn, D. A. Haukos, J. E. Austin, and M. R. Miller (2014). Northern Pintail (Anas acuta), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.