Thursday, February 5, 2015

Northern Pintail

For a time now, I meant to post these pintail photos. Seeing them in Duluth last month has finally pushed me to write. This duck breeds regularly across Minnesota, the northern United States, and Canada. It mainly winters from the southern US into Central America.  They are not normally found this far north in the winter, but several, like the bird in the first photo, have delighted Duluth birders this winter. The second photo is of a breeding male in South Dakota, the third is a South Dakota migrant female.

Pintails eat grain, seeds, and aquatic invertebrates. In normal years, they are among our earliest spring migrants. Pairs form anew every spring. Males, however, are promiscuous, and leave shortly after incubation begins. Breeding pintails are threatened by predators (such as coyotes, fox, and raccoons), drought, and nest destruction by farming operations. Pintail populations have declined from six million birds in the 1970s to under three million by the early 1990s (Austin and Miller 1995).

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