Ducks Unlimited is supporting research on Northern Pintails in partnership with Texas A& University Kingsville, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The pintail is a species of greatest conservation need in many State Wildlife Action Plans and continues to be a species of focus in all four Flyways. This is a $1.6 million project designed to inform conservation and management efforts surrounding the northern pintail.

The continental population of the Northern Pintail remains below the long-term average despite three decades of favorable habitat conditions on breeding areas. This decline is concerning to waterfowl scientists as uncertainties remain around its causes. Although factors on breeding areas undoubtedly have impacts on pintail populations, it is likely that factors on nonbreeding areas also have impacted the ability of the population to respond to improved breeding habitat conditions. Given the large proportion of the annual cycle spent in nonbreeding areas, it is important to understand pintail behavior and how habitats in these areas may influence population dynamics. Waterfowl researchers designed an important study to address this gap in knowledge.

In the winter of 2019- 2020, researchers will capture and attach solar GPS-GSM tracking devices to a sample of female northern pintails at each of six major wintering locations annually for three years. Current study design includes important wintering areas such as the Texas coast, California Central Valley, Louisiana coast, Arkansas (MAV), Texas panhandle, and New Mexico. This will allow the researchers to compare spring migration and wintering strategies (migration speed, arrival date on breeding areas, etc.) of hens and the relationship of those strategies to their reproductive success. They will also identify critical stopover areas for pintails migrating from these different wintering areas.

What We Hope to Learn:

Body Condition - Body condition is an indicator of bird health and associated with overall survival and productivity. Frequent monitoring of body condition will reveal the influence of habitat type and quality on bird health, survival and reproductive success.

Habitat Selection - Understanding nutrition, energy metabolism and daily energy expenditure during winter and migration may be particularly important to our understanding of northern pintails, given their opportunistic pattern of habitat selection.

Migration Ecology - This study will help identify important stopover sites, link individual behavior and habitat use to reproductive success and unravel differences in migration strategies in wintering regions.

Habitat Changes - On wintering areas, information is needed on the response of populations to provision of restored wetland habitats and increasing urbanization.