The Pink-eared Duck is named after an insignificant spot of pink feathers on the side of its head. More striking are the bold black-and-white stripes which dominate the ducks’ neck, breast and underparts, giving rise to its vernacular name of Zebra Duck or Zebra Teal. Pink-eared Ducks have odd-shaped bills, evolved to feed in a specialised manner: water is sucked through the bill-tip, then expelled through grooves along the side of the bill, filtering out tiny invertebrates in the process.
The Pink-eared Duck is a small duck with a huge square-tipped grey bill and strongly barred brown flanks. It has a large brown eye patch on a white finely barred face. There is a small pink patch behind the eye. Upperparts are brown, underparts are white barred dark brown. The upperwing is brown with a white trailing edge and the underwing linings are white, finely barred brown. In flight, there is a bold white crescent on the rump.
A musical chirruping sound that is unusual for a duck, both while in flight and on water. When fighting, this call becomes almost continuous trilling. Bird call recorded by: Drew Davison
The Pink-eared Duck is found throughout Australia but only occasionally in Tasmania.
The Pink-eared Duck is found in areas near water. It prefers shallow, temporary waters, however, open wetlands support large flocks. It is a highly dispersive and nomadic species.
Pink-eared Ducks often feed in head-to-tail pairs swimming in a circle, which concentrates small organisms in a rotating column of water.
Pink-eared Ducks feed in shallow warmish waters. The highly specialised bill is fringed with fine lamellae (grooves) to filter out the microscopic plants and animals which make up the bulk of its diet.
Breeding can take place all year round and is dependant on floodwaters. The nest is a rounded mass of down placed in a hollow or on a stump above the water. Pink-eared Ducks usually take over nests built by other birds, especially the Eurasian Coot, Fulica atra, and the Black-tailed Native Hen, Gallinula ventralis. Pink-eared Ducks form monogamous, probably life-long pair-bonds. The female incubates the eggs, and both parents brood the young.