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A winter visiting duck to Dorset seen in small numbers, mainly at the west end of Poole Harbour

Photograph by: 
Ian Ballam

Pintail: Point made!

Like so many duck species that we see in Dorset the delightful pintail (Anas acuta) is purely a winter visitor and not a breeding species. A few pairs nest further north in Britain but the main breeding areas are in the Arctic regions of Europe, Asia and America. Although widespread they are not a numerous species anywhere and winter populations in Dorset are a few birds rather than many. The wintering populations in Britain prefer coastal marshes, estuaries and large areas of inland marshes. The RSPB  estimates that about 28,000 winter in Britain but this number is declining. Most of the British winter visitors can be found in the east and south-east of England.

An attractively coloured duck, predominantly chocolate  and fudge, but it is their pointed tail from which the derive their name is probably the most noticeable feature that sets them apart from the other wildfowl nearby. 

The weekly reports chart shows pintail are missing from Dorset from around week 18 in mid-May until week 32 in early August but it is not until November that numbers pick up. Reports decline from the middle of March with just a small number remaining for a further 8 to 10 weeks. It seems November and December are the best months to see them in Dorset but March often seems to see a peak too; returning migrants passing through perhaps?

Given their habitat preferences it perhaps not surprising that Holes Bay/Upton Country Park at the western end of Poole Harbour have a good number of reports along with Lytchett Bay just a little further west in the harbour. Stanpit Marsh in Christchurch Harbour reports them frequently as does the swannery at Abbotsbury. Outside of this 18 other sites have records of pintail but these are usually one off reports of, presumably, passage birds.

A walk along the north western shore of Poole Harbour at Holes Bay in mid winter is most likely to produce pintail for your Dorset list.  



Common Name Pintail
Scientific Name Anas acuta
Species Group Birds Ducks
Status Local
Interest Level
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
Look for

An attractively marked duck with a pronounced pointed tail

Identification Notes
  • One of the less common ducks to over winter in Dorset harbours
  • An attractive mixture of chocolate, yellow, white and grey colours
  • The main feature from a distance is its longish pointed tail after which it is named  
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Birds Ducks