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How Do I Know if My Parrot is Male or Female

By Max. D Gray. Updated: March 20, 2017
How Do I Know if My Parrot is Male or Female

When we talk about parrots, we generally refer to the order of birds scientifically known as Psittaciformes, that includes "true" parrots - such as the gray African parrot - as well as parakeets, budgerigars and macaws.

While it is very easy to tell male and female parakeets apart at first glance, it is more difficult to do so with other species. In order to help you, in this oneHOWTO article we'll answer a very common question: How do I know if my parrot is male or female?

You may also be interested in: Do Female Parrots Have Periods?

What is sexual dimorphism? Secondary sexual characteristics in parrots

Sexual dimorphism means that the sexes of a species show different physical traits beyond the primary sex characteristics. These differences include size, coloring and secondary sex characteristics - like the manes of male lions or the tails of male peacocks - that play a role in reproduction as they signal the individual's fitness but are not related to sexual reproduction. These features are usually more evident in adulthood; sexing animals is easier once they have reached maturity.

A way to know if your parrot is male or female is to take a look at its secondary sex characteristics, although they vary depending on the species. In general, male parrots are larger, more colorful and have bigger heads.

  • Female budgerigars have a light blue nose - or cere - that turns brown in the mating season, while males have pink to dark blue noses.
  • Female cockatiels have dark stripes under their tails, while males do not. In the white-faced breed, it is usually only the male that has a white face.
  • Female eclectus parrots are deep red and blue, with a black beak, while males are deep green with a yellow beak.
  • Female parrotlets lack the blue feathers on the eyelids, wings and tail that males have.
  • Female rose-ringed parakeets lack the black or red necklace that males have.
  • Female scarlet-chested parrots lack a scarlet fringe on their chest, while males do deserve their name.
  • Female white-fronted amazons lack the red feathers in their front wing joints that males have.

As for personality and behavior, in most parrot species females tend to be more aggressive and bite more than males, especially in the case of budgerigars. Although popular knowledge has it that male parrots are more affectionate with human women and the other way around, there is no proof that such a thing is true.

How Do I Know if My Parrot is Male or Female - What is sexual dimorphism? Secondary sexual characteristics in parrots

Pubic palpation

Not all parrot species show sexual dimorphism, and behavior is not a fool-proof method to know if a parrot is male or female. Therefore, pubic palpation is one of the most widely used methods to sex parrots, because it is more accurate, it can be performed on young animals more or less reliably, and it is cheaper than an endoscopy or DNA testing.

However, pubic palpation can be quite a dangerous procedure, and some experience is necessary to carry it out properly. It involves carefully taking hold of the parrot, placing it upside down and feeling the bones of the pelvis. In the case of female parrots you should be able to feel from touch a separation between the pubic bones which can grow to more than a half inch. Male parrots will show a lump in their pelvis, while females will not.

Don't know if female parrots have periods? Find out in our article!

DNA testing

If you have tried the methods described above but you still don't know if your parrot is male or female, we suggest that you visit a vet who is an expert in birds or exotic animals to help you determine your pet's sex. This is especially important if you have a pair of parrots and you don't want them to reproduce or to fight.

In addition to the methods already discussed, there are two more infallible methods, but which require a specialist: a DNA test, which is obtained from blood or feather samples, or a far more invasive endoscopy, which involves inserting a camera inside the animal to analyze its reproductive organs.

Now that you know if your pet is male or female, don't miss the following articles!

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