Wildlife - Species

Pintail - photography by US Fish and Wildlife Service

Species Specific Regulations

Northern Pintail

Licenses: Hunting License required. Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (Federal Duck Stamp) that is validated by the hunter signing the stamp in ink across the face of the stamp

Limits: Please see Migratory Bird Regulations for any game zones restrictions or Limitations.

Complete hunting regulations.

Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)


The silhouette of the pintail is made distinctive by its long neck and tail. The drake is noticeable by the striking white line extending up the back of their chocolate colored head.

Average Size
Pintails have an average length of 26 inches and an average weight of 1 3/4 pounds.

These ducks use all four flyways, but are most plentiful in the west. In South Carolina, they are a winter resident to the Coastal Plain and Piedmont regions.

Preferred Habitat
In the summer pintails are found in open areas with shallow wetlands with low vegetation. In the winter they can be found in a wide range of shallow freshwater and intertidal habitats with low amounts of emergent cover.


Typical Flock Pattern

Flock pattern illustration


Pintail wings

Food Habits

Pintails primarily feed on grains, moist-soil and aquatic plant seeds, aquatic insects, crustaceans and snails. They are agile on land and often feed in grain fields.


Pair formation begins in late fall and early winter. Upon return to the breeding grounds, hens make their nest scrape away from the water in short grass or vegetation. They tend to nest in more open sites then other upland nesting duck. After the female constructs a simple nest of grass and other vegetations she lays 3-12 pale olive greenish eggs.


The drakes whistle and the hens have a coarse quack.


  • Extremely graceful and fast fliers, fond of zigzagging from great heights before leveling off to land.
  • Agile on land.
  • Dives for food in various situations.
  • Males show no evidence of territoriality on the breeding grounds, and only defend the immediate area around the female.
  • Ducks form large flocks on the wintering grounds.

Citations, Publications and Literature

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Federal Duck Stamp Office Presents: North American Waterfowl (Adobe PDF file)

Austin, Jane E. and Michael R. Miller. 1995. Northern Pintail (Anas acuta), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online

Hunting Information

For more information, please see:

Species Contact

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division
Phone: 803-734-3886