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Pink-eared duck

Malacorhynchus membranaceus 

Roze-ooreend / Spatelsnabelente / Canard à oreillons roses


The Pink-eared duck is a species of duck found in Australia. It has a large spatulate bill like the shovelers. Its vernacular name refers to a pink spot in the corner formed by the black head pattern; it is only noticeable at close distance however. It is the only living member of the genus Malacorhynchus and this peculiar duck may be most closely related to the shelducks (genus Tadorna) but its relationships are enigmatic. It may be closer to the Musk Duck and the stiff-tails (Sraml et al. 1996) and, formerly placed in theparaphyletic "perching ducks"; it is in any case not close to the dabbling ducks.


Widely distributed throughout Australia and highly mobile, these ducks can appear anywhere there is standing water, especially in dry inland regions, where annual rainfall rarely exceeds 15 inches.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be fluctuating, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern (IUCN, 2012).


Captive breeding management

Pink-eared ducks are not commonly kept and are rarely bred in captivity, although large numbers were bred in Australia in the late 1970's and the 1980's. They are more kept in European than in American collections.

A seperate enclosure is prefered for breeding these ducks and only one pair of this species may be maintained per enclosure; they are highly territorial. May be kept in a mixed group with other species although they may be aggressive to other species near their nest site. Great care should be taken if ny handling is required as they are easily stressed. Filter feeders in the wild, these ducks are best fed using floating food trays or on the water's edge and pelleted food, crumbs, grain (wheat, millet) and green food may be fed. Natural food should also be available, both animal food and surface plants.

Raised nest boxes with a half-open front and sawdust for nesting material should be provided, placed on a pole, over water and with a ramp provided to give access. Eggs are laid mainly May to June in the northern hemisphere. Ducklings require very fine-ground, husk-free  food, formed into a slurry with water. 


More on Pink-eared ducks in captivity can be found in this article by Tom Spence (Perth Zoo).



Above: adult male Pink-eared duck



Above: adult female Pink-eared duck



Above: adult Pink-eared ducks



Above: adult Pink-eared duck



Above: adult Pink-eared duck, front view



Above: adult Pink-eared ducks



Above: adult Pink-eared duck searching for a good nest



Above: a pair of Pink-eared ducks foraging, using their spatulate bill.

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