Northern Pintail, Kabini
If you thought you were a globe-trotter, and that life was what happened between connecting flights, do consider the competition. What you see in the picture is a serene duck contemplating timelessness on the placid waters of the Kabini. What you don’t see is the sheer distance he’s travelled to get here. The Northern Pintail is one of the great wanderers of the avian world, and this trip has probably commenced from the icy wastes of Siberia, a not inconsiderable distance of almost 5000 miles, as the duck flies. This nomad of the skies prefers to travel in tight-knit groups of 15 to 20, clocking an incredible number of air miles every year. Fast and graceful fliers, Pintails are equipped with long wings, small heads, and long necks that seem built for streamlined aerodynamics. But what gives them their name are the two long, pointed black tail feathers, which, in flight, resemble a single pin. The only sound these normally silent birds make is with their rapid wing movements which can be heard well before one sights them. Silence, however, is not golden when it comes to matters of the heart. While we would be slapped if we dared whistle at a girl, it’s accepted behaviour in Pintail land, and the drake merrily whistles during the mating ritual. In fact, as if exercising his bragging rights, he raises his head and whistles after mating as well. All this whistling is tiring business, and the Pintail hits the water most evenings to feed on his favourite plants, by upending on the water and reaching down with his long neck, often exposing only his long tail above water. While the sight of a flock of Pintails doing this together is comical, one doesn’t laugh, for one knows that they’re just stocking up…before the long flight back to Siberia.