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how to tell the gender of parrots

How Do You Tell Male And Female Parrots Apart?

Last Updated on January 28, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

Male and female parrots often lack sexual dimorphism. Macaws, pionus, and conures show no differences between the sexes, so DNA testing or surgical sexing is required.

While some parrots have color differences, others don’t. Sizes can be the same, and head shapes may be identical. Since parrots’ genitalia are internal, you can’t check for differences.

Physical disparities between males and females exist in cockatiels, budgies, and ringneck parrots in their feathers, markings, colors, nares, and head shapes once they’re adults.

How To Tell The Gender of Parrots

Sexual dimorphism refers to the physical differences between males and females.

Some parrot species can have clear gender indicators, while others have none. According to the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, 75% of parrot species are monomorphic.

There’s no identifiable difference between the sexes, excluding their genitalia. If a parrot shows no indicators of gender, is sexing parrots possible?

There are ways to tell the difference between male and female parrots:

Egg-Laying

Females lay unfertilized eggs without males due to light exposure resembling the breeding season. Birds are stimulated to lay eggs due to the photoperiod.

When spring arrives, there are more hours of daylight than darkness. This tells birds that the weather will be warmer and food more abundant.

Artificial light can stimulate hormones and egg-laying activity. This means females exposed to more light are just as likely to lay eggs in November as in April.

The problem is that a female isn’t guaranteed to lay eggs, so you can get the gender wrong.

Surgical Sexing

Parrots have internal genitalia. Surgical sexing is the only procedure that enables visual identification of the organs. This procedure is seldom performed because it can mentally damage juvenile parrots.

DNA Testing

DNA testing is less stressful and carries fewer risks than surgical sexing.

Zoo Biology found DNA testing with feather and blood samples highly effective. This information allows you to be 100% certain of a pet parrot’s gender.

Difference Between Male And Female Parrots

There are more than 400 living parrot species, each with unique traits and behaviors. On occasion, these differences can be used to parse males from females.

Depending on the species, males and females vary in the following ways:

  • Size.
  • Color.
  • Feather patterns.
  • Beak shape.
  • Head shape.

Assessing a parrot based on these traits isn’t 100% accurate for these reasons:

  • Characteristics observed in feathers.
  • Parrot-to-parrot variations.
  • Some only emerge once the parrot reaches sexual maturity.

Even sexually dimorphic parrots can look similar during their juvenile years because they’ll only show dimorphic colors and patterns once they’ve molted their juvenile feathers.

You can make a reasoned assessment based on these indicators:

American Parakeets (Budgies)

Budgerigars are often kept in multi-bird enclosures, which makes knowing their sex important. Once parakeets are 12 months old, it’s easy to tell male budgies apart from females.

Examine the cere at the top of the bird’s beak, which bulges around the nostrils. They’re colored based on the bird’s sex and readiness for the mating season. Here’s how:

  • Male budgies will have blue ceres.
  • Female budgies have white or tan ceres.

These colors darken during the breeding season, but the cere’s color can also signify illness.

how can you tell if your budgie is a male or female

Cockatiels

Cockatiels have been bred to create morphs, which can make determining gender more difficult.

Here’s how to identify females:

  • Stripes or dots on the underside of their tails.
  • Cheek spots are duller.
  • Yellow face feathering is just around the eyes and inner face.
  • Body feathers are sometimes a darker gray.

In contrast, male cockatiels have:

  • Brighter colors.
  • Vivid cheek spots.
  • A bright yellow face and crest.

Male cockatiels behave differently from female cockatiels. For example, males are more vocal.

how do you tell the difference between a male and a female cockatiel?

African Gray Parrots

Males and females look identical, but there are ways to determine the sex of an African gray parrot:

  • Males are usually taller and rounder than females.
  • Males have shorter necks and flatter heads.
  • Females have longer necks and large, round heads.
  • Males are slightly darker in color with vivid red tail feathers.
how to tell the gender of an African grey parrot

Cockatoos

There are ways to determine the difference between male and female cockatoos:

  • Black male cockatoos have black beaks, while females have white or horn-colored beaks.
  • Other cockatoo species have different-colored eyes. For example, male Galah cockatoos have black eyes, while females have pink eyes.
  • Other cockatoo males have brighter colors in their plumage than females.
cockatoo sex determination

Senegal Parrots

Male Senegal parrots can be more aggressive during the breeding season. Consequently, some owners want to know the sex of their parrots to avoid conflict.

Senegal parrots have slight differences between the sexes:

  • Males have yellow undertail feathers, while females are entirely green or green and yellow.
  • Females have slightly narrower beaks and heads, while males have flatter heads and broader bodies.
how to tell male from female senegal parrots

Ringneck Parrots

Once ringnecks reach 2-3 years of age, the differences include:

  • At maturity, male ringnecks develop a distinct black ring around their necks—this pigmented line arches across the throat and toward the ears. Females may develop a pale ring, but it won’t be as colored as the males.
  • Female ringneck parrots are usually stockier in build, with thicker feet and a rounded face.
  • There’s also a slight difference in the beaks of males and females.
how to tell if a ringneck parrot is male or female

Quaker Parrots

Quakers show no outward dimorphism between the sexes. Telling males and females apart requires:

  • Surgical sexing.
  • DNA testing.
  • Egg laying.

They don’t have differences in their beaks, colors, or habits.

how to tell if a quaker is a boy or girl

Macaws

Macaws aren’t sexually dimorphic, so males and females have no outward differences. The only reliable way to tell the gender of a macaw is through:

  • DNA testing.
  • Surgical sexing.
  • Egg laying.

An experienced vet can determine the sex of a macaw.

how to tell the gender of a macaw

Conure Parrots

There’s no way to visually determine a conure’s gender because they have no outward sexual dimorphism. DNA testing and surgical sexing are the only ways to tell if you have a boy or girl parrot.

You can wait until the conure reaches 1-3 years of age. If female, she may begin laying eggs at this age.

how to differentiate between male parrot and female parrot

Pionus Parrots

Males and females are identical in appearance. Pionus parrots are calm and easy-going, but males may not enjoy being handled during the breeding season.

Males display aggressive behavior throughout this time, especially if not paired with a female. Females tend to remain calmer throughout.

DNA testing is the only safe and reliable way to differentiate male and female pionus parrots.

sexing pionus parrots

Parrots Can’t Change Gender

The ability to spontaneously change from male to female or female to male is defined in Copeia as protandry, protogyny, or sequential hermaphroditism.

Parrots can’t change their sex. If you think the parrot has changed sex, you got its gender wrong. Even vets can make mistakes without surgical or DNA testing.

Best Way To Sex A Parrot

The best way to determine the sex of a parrot is DNA testing and surgical sexing.

Surgical testing is only suitable for medium-sized and large adult parrots due to the health risks. Most vets recommend DNA testing because it’s non-invasive.