Roseate Terns (Sterna dougallii) were observed and/or netted on the coast of Bahia, Brazil in January and/or February from 1996 through 2003 as well as in November 2005. The breasts of almost all netted Roseate Terns examined were washed with pink. Analysis of breast feathers taken from birds during the breeding season indicates the pink color is carotenoid-based, with astaxanthin as a major component. Pigment concentration was low, measured in micrograms of carotenoids per gram of feather (maximum recorded 6.2 μg of carotenoids g-1 of feathers), compared to milligram quantities in overtly red feathers in other species, and varied markedly among individuals. A pink blush apparently characterizes the plumage of the Roseate Tern for most of the year, often being more prominent in January/February during the non-breeding season than in breeding birds in May.
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Vol. 29 • No. 3