Northern PintailAnas acuta Linnaeus
Status Fairly common transient, uncommon in summer and winter. Breeds. Evident spring migrants generally arrive in March (average 19 March, earliest 2 March), although some first spring records may represent movements of birds that had wintered in the province. Larger numbers build up during April. It nests throughout the province in salt and freshwater marshes, occasionally on Sable Island and most frequently in the Amherst region. Concentrations of local breeding birds and transients are seen from about mid-September to early November. Generally, only small numbers remain among the wintering waterfowl flocks, but an unusual observation of 110 birds on 10 January 1966 at Pictou Harbour was reported by Eric Holdway.
Description Adult male: Length 66-76cm; head, throat and upper foreneck rich brown; back of neck blackish brown, separated on sides from foreneck by a white line which extends to breast; back and forewings gray, with black scapulars; iridescent wing patch varying from glossy green to bronze-purple, with a bar of cinnamon-brown in front of it; secondaries tipped with white; flanks white, marked with fine, wavy black lines; breast and belly unmarked white; tail white, with black middle feathers long and pointed; legs and bill slate-blue. Adult female: Length 53-62cm; crown reddish brown, streaked with blackish brown; rest of head and neck paler; upperparts and sides dark brown, the feathers edged and marked with buff or light gray; wing patch much duller than in male; in flight wing shows a single white line along hind edge; legs and bill slate-blue.
Breeding Nest: On the ground, composed of coarse vegetable matter, with a lining of down from the breast of the parent. Eggs: 7-12; pale olive-green to olive-buff. The species was not known to breed in Nova Scotia in the nineteenth century. It is uncertain when breeding was first recorded, but John Tingley reported in 1940 that he had frequently seen nests and broods in the Amherst area; since then, others have been found widely in the province.
Range In North America breeds from northern Alaska, the Mackenzie Delta, Southampton Island and northern Quebec, south to California, Illinois and Massachusetts, sporadically beyond. Winters from southern Alaska, Missouri to Panama, casually further north. Also found in the Old World.
Remarks The drake of this species ranks among the most beautiful of ducks and has a similar rating as a table bird. It is most frequently found on fresh water where it feeds largely by "tipping," its longer neck enabling it to feed at greater depths than those reached by the other freshwater ducks with which it competes.
The female might be confused with the female Mallard, but her neck is longer and more slender, and her tail is longer and pointed.
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