Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Northern Pintail - Anas acuta
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General Comments The Northern Pintail is predominantly a coastal puddle duck, wintering in locally large numbers on shallow brackish water, though the bulk of the population winters with other ducks on fresh water. It occurs on lakes, impoundments, and even bays/sounds, often in open water away from vegetative cover more so than most other puddle ducks. It is less frequently seen on smaller ponds, beaver ponds, etc., than other puddle ducks, favoring larger waters, such as reservoirs, inland. Though there has been an apparent decline in numbers in part of its range, numbers wintering in the state seem not to have greatly declined in the past century.
Breeding Status Accidental Breeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S4N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Winter resident. Fairly common to locally abundant along the northern coast and Tidewater, south to Pamlico Sound; mostly uncommon along the southern half of the coast. Can occur by the thousands in a few refuges, such as Pea Island, Mattamuskeet, and Alligator River; and thousands can also been seen on Pamlico Sound adjacent to the Outer Banks. A few may linger all summer, but no confirmed nesting in the province. Inland, rare to locally uncommon migrant and winter visitor, with no known regular wintering sites. Late Aug to late Apr. Peak counts: 113,521, Mattamuskeet NWR CBC, 29 Dec 2017.
Piedmont Rare to uncommon transient, mainly in Oct-Nov and Feb-Mar; rare in midwinter. No regular wintering locales in the region. Accidental breeding, in Guilford, in 1950. A male that stayed at Oak Hollow Lake (Guilford) from 26 Apr - 9 Jul 2022 was most unusual. Peak counts: 587, Pee Dee NWR CBC, 2 Jan 2010; 60, Jordan Lake, 29 Nov 1979.
Mountains Rare winter visitor, generally at lower elevations. Essentially late Dec to mid-Feb. Peak counts: 50, Transylvania, 15 Jan 2018; 12, Lake Julian (Buncombe), 8 Feb 1975.
Finding Tips This species can be seen by the hundreds to occasionally the thousands at a few places near the coast, such as Bodie and Pea islands, Lake Mattamuskeet, Alligator River NWR, and parts of Pamlico Sound. It can generally be found at all of the coastal refuges, but it is more local than most other puddle ducks. Unlike some puddle ducks, large flocks can be found locally on Pamlico Sound and other brackish waters.
Attribution LeGrand[2023-03-01], LeGrand[2022-12-22], LeGrand[2019-07-31]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
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NC Breeding Season Map
Map depicts assumed breeding season abundance for the species.