White-cheeked Pintail, Abaco 9


Hunt them. Then when you have found them, shoot them. But only with a camera, obviously… These attractive dabbling ducks are far too pretty for anything more controversial than watching and enjoying. Many moons ago I posted about them HERE, but I’m a bit cannier since then, and even have my own photos now…

NOTE Within hours of posting this, I was alerted (thanks, Tony W) to the inadvisability of (a) using the word ‘hunting’ in the title; and (b) the opening 2 sentences. (a) has been changed to the neutrally vanilla ‘finding’. (b) remain but with this warning: “It is illegal to shoot white-cheeked pintail in the Bahamas“. While I don’t imagine the readers of a blog like this will already have rushed to the gun cabinet, packed up a cartridge bag, added a couple of Kaliks and headed off  with extreme pintail population decrease in mind, I expect a  g**gle search for ‘hunting & shooting sweet small ducks’ could indeed provoke the odd (to very odd) person to assume it is open season for pintails. It isn’t. It never is.

White-cheeked Pintail, Abaco 1

The white-cheeked pintail Anas Bahamensis is also known as the Bahama Pintail. It is a gregarious species, often found in large numbers on lakes and ponds. An excellent place to see them on Abaco is at the pond by Hole 11 at Treasure Cay golf course. Don’t all rush at once – and if you do follow up the hint, check in  at the Clubhouse to get permission – there may be a competition in progress… You’ll see many other waterbird species there, and I will do a follow-up post about them. Do mind your head – if someone yells ‘fore’ they will probably not be counting duck species.White-cheeked Pintail, Abaco 3

The male and female of the species are very similar. However, in the image below there’s one bird that stands out from the others… and I don’t mean the American Coot. Near the bottom right is a LEUCISTIC variant of the Bahama Duck, a genetic condition similar to albinism.White-cheeked Pintail, Abaco 5

Here is a close-up of the same duck on dry land. These variants are known as Silver Bahama Pintails. They are worth more than the standard version. You can see some good comparative pictures and find out more at MALLARD LANE FARMSWhite-cheeked Pintail, Abaco 7

 Here is a more extreme wiki-example of a silver bahama pintail

Another excellent place for pintails is in the Crossing Rocks area of South Abaco. Strictly, it is on private land. And legally too, for that matter. So I won’t pinpoint these pintails publicly. There is a wonderful variety of waterbird life there. I have seen great egrets, little blue herons, yellow-crowned night herons, belted kingfishers and elegant BLACK-NECKED STILTS there, besides several duck species. I have also seen a sora there (twice), a small, furtive rail that skulks in the reeds and foliage at the edge of the water, profoundly hoping that you won’t notice it… If you are birding on Abaco from Delphi, ask Peter or Sandy for the location. Or else contact me.White-cheeked Pintail, Abaco 6

“On Reflection…”White-cheeked Pintail, Abaco 2



This very pretty duck species is getting a mention not because I have ever seen one on Abaco, but because I have seen them at WWT Barnes in London. [Later note: see end of post – turns out it was at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve Norfolk]. We went there last weekend to photograph one for your (plural, not single reader I hope) exclusive pleasure, but sadly they haven’t got any at the moment – they have been moved to WWT Slimbridge. I’ve decided to post about them anyway. As ever, thanks to wiki for its handy conservation and classification label, plus basic species details which always get things off to a scientific-looking start before the nose-dive into amateurism…

There follow 2 open-use non-© images, with a dip of the beak to the anon photographers

           BAHAMA PINTAILS                                                  

The White cheeked Pintail or Bahama Pintail (Anas bahamensis) is a dabbling duck first listed by LINNAEUS in his Systema naturae in 1758, under its current scientific name.

There are three subspecies: A. b. bahamensis in the Caribbean (and vagrant in south Florida); A. b. galapagensis on the Galapagos; and the slightly larger A. b. rubirostris in South America.  The sexes are similar. It is mainly brown with white cheeks and a red-based grey bill (young birds lack the pink). Conveniently for amateurs, it “cannot be confused with any other duck in its range” – though I’ll believe that when I have first-hand experience of personal non-muddle.

These ducks are found on saline waters such as brackish lakes, estuaries and mangrove swamps. They feed on aquatic plants and small creatures rootled out by dabbling. The nest is on the ground under vegetation and near water.

Mike Bergin, a naturalist, has very kindly let me use 2 of his wonderful images for this post. There are others to be found at CLICK==>>  http://10000birds.com/white-cheeked-pintails.htm Indeed the whole site is well worth a good rummage around

Photo Credits Mike Bergin 1000 Birds

Here’s what they sound like (credit Xeno-Canto / George Armistead)

SPECIES LISTING (Jan 2012): This duck is on the threatened species list – not actually endangered but experiencing “moderate decline or facing imminent threats which warrant specific conservation measures”. Sadly, there are 3 separate causes of decline, each of which may be difficult to combat: habitat loss; hunting; and predation by introduced species.

Finally, here are links to more material about and images of these pretty ducks:

OISEAUX-BIRDS (an excellent resource for many other birds – merci Nicole for link approval)

BAHAMAS NATIONAL TRUST  2-page article on Pintails / Endangered birds

STOP PRESS To my complete surprise, I now discover that I have got my very own quite respectable picture of a Bahama Pintail, taken in July 2010 at the Pensthorpe Nature Reserve, Norfolk. So here it is…

STOP PRESS Feb 2012 Ricky Johnson, Abaco’s renowned bird expedition leader, has posted a fine example of a Bahama Pintail on his Facebook page, taken near his home. And, with permission (thanks, Ricky) here it is