It isn’t easy to tell male and female parrots apart. While certain breeds show color differences, others don’t. Sizes may be entirely the same, and head shapes may be identical. Since parrot genitalia is internal, you can’t physically check for differences in sex. Without guidance from a vet, you may not be able to tell if your parrot is a boy or girl.
Physical differences between males and females exist in cockatiels, budgies, and ringneck parrots. You’ll see differences in their feathers, markings, colors, beaks, and head shapes. Macaws, pionus, and conure parrots show no physical differences between the sexes, so DNA testing or surgical sexing will be required.
These indicators may not show up until the parrot is fully grown. For example, behavioral signs may not appear until the mating season. Males tend to be more aggressive, while females are more docile. Certain genetic defects may also cause your parrot to look like the opposite gender.
How To Tell The Gender Of Parrots
Sexual dimorphism refers to the physical differences between males and females. Parrots can have strong, clear indicators of sex. They can also have no indicators at all, depending on their species.
As stated in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, 75% of all parrot species (the psittacine family) are sexually monomorphic. That means there is no identifiable difference between the sexes, excluding the genitalia. So, if your parrot doesn’t show any indicators of its gender, is sexing parrots impossible?
Fortunately, there are three ways to sex an otherwise sexless parrot. One can be done yourself, while the other two require the intervention of an avian veterinarian.
Wait Until The Parrot Matures
You can wait for a parrot to reach sexual maturity. Females may lay eggs, even if they have not been paired up with males. This is a natural occurrence in captive and wild parrots.
However, many parrots are long-lived and mature at 3-10 years of age. The long wait time makes this option less than ideal. That’s especially true if you are cohabitating multiple parrots in a single enclosure.
Aside from egg-laying, you can also wait for the mating season to reveal behavioral patterns. Males will grow more vocal and territorial. Female parrots will remain docile. However, this can be difficult to tell when parrots are kept alone.
In species that are not sexually dimorphic, you can turn to surgical sexing by a vet. Parrots have internal genitalia. Surgical sexing is the only procedure that enables visual identification of the organs. This procedure isn’t commonly performed as it runs the risk of mentally scarring young and small parrots.
DNA testing is a method for sexing a parrot. It is also preferred to surgical sexing, as it places less stress on the animal and has little risk involved. Zoo Biology found DNA testing using feather and blood samples to be highly effective. With it, you can accurately determine the sex of captive and wild specimens.
Difference Between Male And Female Parrots
So, what about parrots that do show physical differences? There are currently 387 living parrot species, each with its own traits and behaviors. On occasion, these can be used to parse male parrots from female parrots. Depending on the species, males and females vary in:
- Feather patterns
- Beak shape
- Head shape
Judging a parrot by these traits isn’t 100% accurate because of traits:
- Seen in the feathers
- Parrot-to-parrot variations
- That may only appear once the parrot reaches sexual maturity
Even sexually dimorphic parrots can look similar during their juvenile years. They will only show dimorphic colorations and patterns after they have molted their juvenile feathers. Nonetheless, you can try based on these indicators:
How To Sex Parakeets
Parakeets, or budgies, are kept in multi-bird enclosures, which makes knowing their sex important. Fortunately, once parakeets are 12 months old, it’s easy to tell the males apart from females.
Look for the cere, which are bumps at the top of the bird’s beak. They bulge gently around its nostrils. They are colored according to the bird’s sex and its readiness for mating season. Here’s how:
- Male budgies will have blue ceres
- Female budgies have white or tan ceres
These colors will darken during the breeding season. Note that the color of a parakeet’s cere may also signal illness. Color changes should be closely monitored, especially if females develop blue or males develop green ceres.
How To Sex Cockatiels
Cockatiels have been bred to create morphs. These are mutations that change the patterns or coloration of their feathers. This can make determining the sex of the cockatiel tricky. In general, these characteristics will help you determine the cockatiel’s sex if it is a normal variant. Here’s how to identify females:
- Stripes or dots on the underside of their tails
- Cheek spots are more dull
- Yellow face feathering is just around the eyes and inner face
- Body feathers are sometimes a darker grey
In contrast, male cockatiels have:
- Brighter coloring
- Vivid cheek spots
- A bright yellow face and crest
Male cockatiels behave differently from female cockatiels. This can be a determining factor for some people, as males are more vocal with whistles and learned phrases.
How To Sex African Gray Parrots
African Grays are one of the most intelligent breeds of parrot. Males and females may look identical, but there are small details that allow you to determine the sex of an African grey parrot:
- Males are usually taller and rounder than the females
- Males have shorter necks and flatter heads
- Females have longer necks and large, round heads
- Males are usually slightly darker in coloring, with vivid red tail feathers
How To Sex Cockatoos
Cockatoos are large parrots native to Australia, New Guinea, and parts of Indonesia. A flamboyant, intelligent personality and unusual crest make this parrot a well-loved pet. There aren’t many breeds of cockatoo with drastic visual differences. This further complicates telling the sexes apart:
- For certain breeds, black male cockatoos have black beaks while females have white or horn-colored beaks.
- Other cockatoo breeds 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 while females have more dull colorations.
It can be hard to notice the differences without a side-by-side comparison.
How To Sex Senegal Parrots
Male Senegal parrots can be aggressive during the breeding season. This is why some owners wish to know the sex of their parrots to avoid conflict. Senegal parrots have slight differences between the sexes:
- Males have yellow undertail feathers; females have green or green-and-yellow undertail feathers.
- Females have slightly narrower beaks and heads while males have flatter heads and a broader body.
How To Sex Ringneck Parrots
There are a few differences between male and female ringneck parrots, so you can more easily tell them apart. That is, once they reach 2-3 years of age. These are:
- 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 heavily colored as the males.
- Female ringneck parrots are usually stockier in build, with thicker feet and a rounded face.
- There is also a slight difference in the beaks of males and females.
How To Sex Quaker Parrots
Quaker parrots show no outward dimorphism between the sexes. Telling males apart from females requires:
- DNA testing
- Waiting for the parrot to lay eggs
They don’t bear any differences in their beaks, coloring, or habits. However, Quaker parrots do well in pairs, no matter the sex of each individual. You can keep these birds together without fearing conflict.
How To Sex Macaws
Macaws are not sexually dimorphic. There are no outward differences between males and females. In fact, these parrots are so identical that the only reliable way to tell is through:
- DNA testing
- Surgical sexing
Seek an experienced avian vet if you need to know your bird’s sex.
How To Sex Conure Parrots
There is no way to determine a conure parrot’s sex through visual examination. They have no outward sexual dimorphism. A DNA test or surgical sexing is the only way to confirm if you have a boy or girl parrot.
You can wait until the bird reaches 1-3 years of age. At this age, if female, she may begin laying eggs – even without having coupled with a male.
How To Sex Pionus Parrots
Males and females are identical in appearance. Pionus parrots are calm and easy-going, as far as birds go. However, males may not enjoy being handled during mating season.
In fact, males will show aggressive behavior throughout this time. That’s especially true if they aren’t able to couple with a female. Females tend to remain calm throughout.
Male Vs. Female Parrot Behavior
You can sometimes tell male and female parrots apart by their more unusual behavior:
How They React To Mirrors
Certain parrots will act differently when confronted with their own reflection. Male parrots tend to strut their stuff when viewing a mirror. You may see a variety of behaviors, like:
Female parrots will still interact with mirrors, but not as exuberantly as males.
You may also see females nesting or trying to create a nest. Here, they would lay their eggs. It’s unwise to give a parrot a nesting box until it has reached maturity. Premature egg-laying can harm females. With that said, parrots have individual personalities. Sexing them just by observing their behavior isn’t that accurate.
Can Parrots Change Gender?
Parrots cannot change their sex. The ability to spontaneously change from male to female or female to male is rare among animals. It’s defined in Copeia as protandry, protogyny, or sequential hermaphroditism.
If you think your parrot has changed sex, it didn’t. You merely judged its original sex incorrectly. Even vets can make this error without the assistance of surgery or DNA testing.
There are as many as 1,500 known animal species in the world that can change sex. It occurs in response to changes in the environment or species population. Animals that can change sex include reptiles, amphibians, fish, and corals. Parrots are not capable of sequential hermaphroditism.
However, some birds (including parrots) will occasionally develop traits of the opposite sex. This may include developing coloration and plumage that’s out of character. Unlike sequential hermaphroditism, this is not due to external factors in the environment or social population. It’s due to dysfunction with their existing reproductive organs. Typically, this happens in female birds with a damaged or malfunctioning ovary.
With this, the parrot remains capable of reproducing as the sex it was originally born as. It doesn’t matter that it bears visual and physical traits of the opposite sex. However, that can change if the dysfunction or damage is severe.
Is My Parrot A Boy Or Girl? Is It Important?
Knowing the sex of your parrot can be irrelevant. That’s true if you’re keeping one parrot alone as a pet. Whether it’s a boy or a girl won’t affect how it lives with you. However, that changes if:
- You intend to cohabitate two or more parrots in a single enclosure
- Several parrots are allowed to free roam in a room
- You keep two parrots of the same sex together as they reach maturity
For the first two situations, unwanted breeding can cause issues once the chicks have hatched. Extra expenses will incur, as you need to house and feed all these extra parrots.
Competition And Conflict
For the last situation, single-sex pairs can cause problems. This happens once the parrots have reached sexual maturity. They will be competitive, frustrated, and struggling to establish dominance.
Some species can live together in a single enclosure, but this isn’t always the case. Parrots may squabble and fight. This can result in unhappy and unhealthy birds. Certain parrots have been known to fight to the death.
What’s The Best Way To Sex A Parrot?
The best way to confirm the sex of your parrot is to have a DNA test performed or surgical sexing. However, that’s only for adult parrots and those that are medium-sized and above. Vets recommend DNA testing as it’s non-invasive.
If knowing your parrot’s sex is important, then consult with an avian vet. A veterinarian can determine this without confusion or any physical damage to your pet parrot.