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Carotenoid in the Pink-eared Duck

Ever wonder what gives the pink-eared duck the tiny pink patch of feathers for which it is named? By incorporating carotenoid pigments, of course! Carotenoid pigments are the origin of many bright and ornate colors in a birds plumage, such as red, orange, and in this case, pink. They originate in the diet of the bird, with a well known example being flamingos getting their pink plumage from the carotenoids in the algae and brine shrimp that they eat. The pink-eared duck is one of only two modern species of waterfowl known to incorporate these pigments into their plumage, the other being the likely, but not confirmed, extinct pink-headed duck. So, it is not unreasonable to believe that the pink-eared duck has the dubious distinction of being the lone species of waterfowl still in existence to utilize this unique trait! 

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