Pin-Teal arrival in Piney Woods
|Duck hunters look forward to
a bonus season in mid-September when many Blue-winged
Teal move into the region from northern nesting grounds.
But, three other duck species begin arriving then as well
- Northern Pintail, Wood Duck, and Northern Spoonbill.
An avid duck hunter I know referred to having Pin-Teal and Spoon-Teal as well as the colorful Rainbow Teal - Wood Duck - flying into his decoys! Killing any of these birds during teal season is a violation of federal and state game laws so hunters need to be alert. All are much larger than any teal species. Hunting does not begin until sunrise as opposed to half an hour before sunrise during the regular winter season. This change permits hunters to better identify incoming ducks.
While any teal - Blue-winged, Green-winged, or Cinnamon - may be taken during the teal season, nearly 100% of the bag is Blue-winged Teal in the Gulf South Region. Cinnamon Teal are very rare in the central and eastern USA and Green-winged Teal arrive in numbers much later in the fall.
The drake Northern Pintail is a spectacular duck. It is large, slim and long-necked. The head is dark, reddish brown and there is a white stripe on the neck down to the white chest. The back is grayish and the long black pin-shaped tail gives the bird its name. The bill is black with bluish gray stripes.
The hen Northern Pintail is a dull grayish, brown bird. This color blends into the marshy areas where they nest providing excellent camouflage. Smaller than the drake, the hen is similarly slim and has pointed tail, although not as pronounced as that of the drake.
I have never encountered a duck that did not make a quack-like sound. But, pintails generally communicate by making a whistling sound. Pintail calls mimic this whistle. I have a 45 year old, 6 inch long tubular child's whistle that is painted dull green for use in duck blinds to call pintails.
Northern Pintails are very good to eat, assuming you like to eat game. Pintail populations have had ups and downs during the past half century. Recently, numbers declined to the point that the number of days they could be hunted was restricted and one could take only one bird per day. More recently, the length of the season and the limit have increased.
Pintails are dabbling ducks. This means that they feed in shallow water and "tip-up" to feed. Their heads are on the bottom and their tails are sticking up in the air. But, don't assume that they cannot dive and stay under water for a long time.
Virtually all pintails migrate to breeding areas in the Great Plains in the spring and return to our region in the fall. However, a few pintails have been recorded breeding in the marshes along the northern Gulf of Mexico.
Pintails are strong flyers. Birds feeding in central Arkansas one day, can be found in Louisiana's coastal marshes the next day. Then, the following day, they can relocate to northern Louisiana. Such moves are usually associated with strong winds generated by cold fronts from the north and warm fronts from the south that sweep the area during the winter.
Jay V. Huner