As of 2014, the Northern Pintail is on the list of birds in steep decline. Yesterday, though, I saw many of them at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, outnumbering all the other ducks combined. They were busy looking for food, flying about from one spot to another, and allowing me ample opportunities for photos.
He was standing on a bank of the marshes, his back turned to me, his face to the water. I stopped to take his picture, and as I aimed my camera at him, he turned around, a severe look on his face.
So I drove on. The tide was falling, and water from the marshes was pouring out toward the ocean. At one of the outlets, I found a Hooded Merganser swimming by himself, coming very close to where I was, as if he had not noticed me. This was the closest I had ever been to these usually shy ducks.
There were female Hooded Mergansers in the vicinity, but they were paired with other males. None paid any attention to our handsome bachelor!
I moved on to another pond and saw a pair of Northern Pintails busy in their favorite pursuit: dabbling in shallow water to find plants and crustaceans to eat.
After a while, they paused and struck a classic pose, with water still dripping from the male’s bill.
After surfers and snorkelers, I would like to show you the Northern Pintails in synchronized swimming. These ducks are known as dabbling ducks which feed on the surface of the ponds where they land. They first look for things to eat by submerging their heads, then they tip their rear end to look even deeper and catch their food.
The following photos, taken 10 days before the above, show groups of them similarly practicing the art of synchronized swimming. It looks like they got better at it in the final photo!
Beside the surfers that I saw last Friday at the Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, there were quite a few snorkelers. The majority of them were Northern Pintail ducks very much focused on finding a tasty lunch.
One of them found something, or maybe he was lonely, and called on the others to come.
In no time at all, he was surrounded by both male and female ducks who happily resumed snorkeling.