2274. Dafila acuta acuta

(2274) Dafila acuta acuta.

The Pintail.

Anas acuta Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed., i, p. 126 (1758) (Sweden). Dafila acuta. Blanf. & Gates, iv, p. 447.

Vernacular names. Sand, Sink-par (Hind.,N. W. P.); Kokarali Drighush (Sind) ; Dig-hans, Sho-lon-cho (Beng.) ; Digunch (Nepal); Nanda, Nanja (Ooriya) ; Laitunga (Manipur); Nejal-hans, Dighal-negi (Assam) ; Daophlantu-loubi (Cachari).

Description. - Male. Whole head brown, varying from a rather pale dingy to a rich dark umber, glossy on the upper parts, with a purple or copper sheen, more especially on the sides of the sinciput and nape ; chin and throat sometimes rather paler than the upper parts; nape almost black, grading on the one hand in the rich brown of the head and, on the other, into the grey of the hind-neck; the grey here is formed by the most minute stipplings of brown and pale grey, gradually changing into more pronounced stipplings1 and bars on the upper plumage; a white band on each side of the nape forming the white of the neck; rump like the back ; upper tail-coverts black edged with grey; longer scapulars velvety-black edged with silver-grey; shorter scapulars like the back, but often with dark centres; wing-coverts brownish-grey, the greater tipped with rufous-chestnut; secondaries forming the speculum bronze-green, tipped white, subtipped black; the feather next the speculum black with a narrow white tip, a line of white next the quill and the inner web brownish-grey ; remaining inner secondaries grey on the outer webs, black edged with grey on the inner; central rectrices black, the lateral ones grey-brown; neck and breast white; abdomen white, more or less stippled with grey about the vent; flanks and sides like the back; under tail-coverts black except the exterior lateral feathers, which are white ; the flanks next the tail-coverts are white, more or less tinged with buff and with the vermiculations fainter than on the rest of the flanks.

Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown, often tinged with red ; bill light to dark plumbeous, the culmen, lower mandible and base darker; legs and feet dark plumbeous-grey or blackish; webs, claws and joints still blacker.

Measurements. Wing 264 to 292 mm.; tail up to 228 mm. long, generally about 150 to 180 mm ; tarsus about 37 to 40 mm.; culmen 54 to 58 mm.

Weight 1 3/4 to 2 3/4 lbs.

Female. Head brownish- buff with dark centres to the feathers : throat and chin paler ; neck brownish-buff speckled with brown ; upper parts brown, the feathers edged with white or buffy-white and the scapulars with a few white bars in addition; the white tips of the secondaries and greater coverts form two wing-bars, but there is no speculum ; quills dark brown, the inner ones narrowly edged white and paler on the inner webs; lower parts dingy-white tinged with buff or rufous and streaked with dark brown.

Colours of soft parts the same as but duller than in the male.

Measurements. Wing 235 to 260 mm.

Young males have the wing coloration of the adult male but are otherwise like the female.

Male in eclipse plumage closely resembles the female. In some individuals the mantle is dark ashy-grey or blackish-grey coarsely vermiculated with greyish-white.

Nestling in down. Like that of the Mallard but the line through the eye darker, whilst there is a second dark line from the lores below the eye to the nape; the lower plumage is suffused with grey instead of buff.

Distribution. The Northern Old-World Hemisphere,breeding as far South as Spain and Southern France, whilst in Winter it is found in Northern Africa and practically the whole of Southern Asia, also occurring in Panama, Cuba, Hawaian Islands etc.

Nidification. The Pintail breeds in the South in April and May and in the North,in May and June and, often, in the early part of July. The favourite site is open grass-land, marshy under foot but not deep swamp, though it may be immediately surrounded by such. Nor does it make its nest in among the dense reeds as do some of the Pochards but selects green grass, long enough to conceal the nest and no longer. Occasionally it is said to make its nest among bushes like the Mallard but this is exceptional. The duck sits until almost trodden on and then flutters along the ground for some distance as if ill or wounded. The nest is well made, dry and compact with the usual mass of down as a lining, built up in a wall all round the nest like that of the Mallard, Teal etc. The eggs number seven to twelve, eight to ten being the usual clutch. In colour they are most often a very pale delicate sea-green, occasionally with a huffish tinge. One hundred measured by Gobel average 55.0 x 38.8 mm., another hundred measured by myself average only 53.2 x 37.1 mm., almost identically the same as forty British eggs measured by Jourdain. Maxima 57.0 x 38.1 and 53.5 x 39.1 mm. ; minima 49.9 x 36.1 and 54.4 x 38.6 mm.

Habits. The Pintail is one of the most common of the ducks visiting India and may be seen in flocks numbering from twenty to two hundred, or even bigger. In North-West India large numbers arrive in October but in the East few arrive until November, whilst in Kashmir Magrath shot them as early as the 27th of September. In the non-breeding season these duck seem to prefer large open expanses of water, fringed with weeds and rushes and the open part amply provided with lotus and other surface plants, among which they can lie hidden and sleep in the heat of the day. Their food consists mainly of small Crustacea and mollusca and to a less extent of shoots of plants and water-weeds. For the table they are among the best of all the duck and, as they are shy birds and fine fliers, they are among the best of game-ducks also. Their call is a soft quack or chuckle, whilst in the breeding-season the drake is said to utter a " deep click" as he swims round the female.

The Fauna Of British India, Including Ceylon And Burma-birds(second Edition)
Baker, EC S (1922–1930) The fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Second edition. vol.6 1929.
Title in Book: 
2274. Dafila acuta acuta
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
Page No: 
Common name: 
Northern Pintail
Anas acuta
Vol. 6
Term name: 

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Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith