Sexual dichromatism, a difference in coloration between males and females, may be due to sexual selection for ornamentation and mate choice. Here, we show that carotenoid-based dichromatism in mosaic canaries, a hybrid phenotype that arises in offspring of the sexually dichromatic red siskin and monochromatic canaries, is controlled by the gene that encodes the carotenoid-cleaving enzyme b-carotene oxygenase 2 (BCO2). Dichromatism in mosaic canaries is explained by differential carotenoid degradation in the integument, rather than sex-specific variation in physiological functions such as pigment uptake or transport. Transcriptome analyses suggest that carotenoid degradation in the integument might be a common mechanism contributing to sexual dichromatism across finches. These results suggest that differences in ornamental coloration between sexes can evolve through simple molecular mechanisms controlled by genes of major effect.