SEX IDENTIFICATION OF PET BIRDS
Adult male parakeets and female parakeets can typically be identified by the color of their cere. A cere is the band just above a birds beak where their nostrils are found. A female’s cere is usually brown or tan. Sometimes, a female parakeet will have a slightly crusty cere.
Male parakeets have a blue cere. Although, it can be hard in some cases to tell the difference between the two because the ceres sometimes appear as a pinkish and bluish iridescent color.
The cere of the male budgie is generally deep blue, whereas it is generally pale blue to brown in the female. In addition, the naris of the female budgie is usually encircled by a pale rim; the naris of the male lacks the rim and is blue. The males also tend to be more vocal and are more likely to talk.
The sex of a gray cockatiel can be distinguished after the bird has undergone its first molt at about 8 months of age. Prior to this point of reaching sexual maturity, both sexes have identical feathering. At the time of the first molt, as the new feathers grow in, the head of the male becomes more yellow, the orange spots by the ears become brighter, the bars (or stripes or spots, depending on one’s perspective) on the underside of the flight feathers disappear, and the speckled tail feathers are replaced by solid gray feathers. In the female, there is little change at the first molt; the colors may become somewhat brighter, but the bars on the underside of the flight feathers are retained, as is the speckling on the tail feathers. In cockatiels with color mutations, sex is difficult to determine. Quite often, breeders determine the sex of very young cockatiels by behavioral differences (the males tend to be more vocal and rambunctious than the females).
canaries can sometimes be visually determined. In males, the vent region protrudes somewhat; in females, it is more flush with the surrounding skin. The difference is subtle but can usually be observed with experience.
In cockatoos, eye color can be, but is not always, an indicator of sex. Females that have become sexually mature develop a red coloration to their irises, which is very distinct from the deep brown color of the male iris. Not all females develop this color change, however. Thus, whereas all cockatoos with red irises are definitely female, cockatoos with brown irises may be males, immature females, or mature females that have not undergone the eye color change.
Numerous other techniques are used to determine the sex of pet birds, but most of them are quite questionable. One such method is pelvic sexing, where the bird’s pelvic bones are palpated on the ventral abdomen to determine the amount of space between them. According to proponents of this method, males have very little space between the pelvic bones whereas females have widely spaced bones. Anyone with extensive experience with birds of known sex, however, realizes that wide variations exist between the sexes in pelvic spacing, making this technique highly unreliable. Head shape, eye shape, size, beak width, and other subtleties have also been used, but the accuracy of sex determination with these measures greatly depends on the skill of the evaluator; even for skilled persons, the differences can be difficult to discern.
2. DNA BLOOD SEXING
Over the past several years DNA blood sexing has moved to the forefront and has proven to be a safe and effective technique for sexing birds. This technique is performed by commercial laboratories, and is widely used. In a nutshell, the DNA form the blood is analyzed to determine if it was from a male or female, which sounds simple but it is truly involved genetics which sometimes people take for granted. In the formative stages of the technique, blood feathers needed to be submitted so that the pulp of the feather could be analyzed for the DNA. It needed to be sent by overnight mail, so the DNA was still viable. Unfortunately, all too often the sample would not produce the necessary DNA or there were delays in shipment. The lab was good about having another sample sent to them for free, but the overnight mail fees were incurred once again, which became frustrating. A tremendous development in the blood sexing technique was when it could be conducted on a dried blood sample. So now a blood sample was collected, placed on a card, which was then mailed. No worries about overnight delivery and resultant problems.