©David Tipling/2020VISION


Scientific name: Anas acuta
When spotting the pintail in winter, look out for the fabulous, long tail feathers that characterise it. This dabbling duck feeds at the water's surface, rather than diving for food.

Species information


Length: 55-65cm
Wingspan: 88cm
Weight: 700-900g
Average lifespan: 3 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015). Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

When to see

January to December


The pintail is an uncommon dabbling duck, which rarely breeds in the UK and is most likely to be seen during the winter when it can be found with other ducks. Larger numbers gather on selected sheltered estuaries, such as the Wash and the Dee Estuary. Like all dabbling ducks, pintails feed at the surface rather than diving for their food. They eat plant food when dabbling, but will supplement their diet with insects and molluscs in the breeding season.

How to identify

The pintail is easily distinguished by its long, pointed tail feathers. Males have a chestnut-coloured head, white neck and grey body, while females are mottled brown with smaller, pointed tails. Pintails also have a long, graceful neck.


Mainly a winter visitor to coasts and estuaries. Small numbers nest here, particularly in northern Scotland.

Did you know?

The oldest pintail was recorded as living to 27 years of age! Normally, these ducks live for an average of about three years, breeding after a year. Pintails will lay up to nine eggs in a concealed nest on the ground, some distance from the water. At best, only a third of their clutch will live long enough to breed themselves - the chicks are vulnerable to predators such as foxes, crows, magpies and birds of prey.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many wetland and coastal nature reserves for the benefit of the wildlife they support. You can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member; you'll find out about exciting wildlife news, events on your doorstep and volunteering opportunities, and will be helping local wildlife along the way.