How do I tell the gender of my pet bird? Why is it important to know the sex of a pet bird?

Many of our clients come to us with these questions and concerns, so we decided to dedicate a blog to this topic to help you learn about the best methods for identifying your pet bird’s gender and why this can be helpful knowledge to have.

Dr Michelle with one of the stunning Indian Ringneck patients

Why Is It Important to Know the Gender of Your Pet Bird?

One of the most popular reasons owners want to know the gender of their pet bird is for deciding on an appropriate name. However, knowing a bird’s sex is also beneficial for a host of other reasons; such as managing behavioural and medical issues, particularly those involving the reproductive tract.

Here are some other common reasons it can be helpful or necessary to identify a pet bird’s gender:

  • Because of their significantly different roles in the wild, male and female birds often start to display different traits as they get older. Knowing a pet bird’s gender can help an owner prepare for the eventual changes their bird will experience as it matures. For example, breeding season creates differing nutritional needs and desires in birds. A female might seek out a dark hole to nest in, while a male may start chattering or whistling excessively.
  • Knowing the gender of a pet bird is also useful information for the family’s veterinarian. For instance, if a pet bird is sitting in the corner of its cage and exhibiting fluffed-up feathers, a swollen abdomen, and weakness, the vet may be more inclined to check the bird for egg-binding.
  • Similar to teenagers undergoing hormonal changes, pet birds also experience hormonal shifts and can become moody, possessive, louder than normal, and aggressive. Knowing a pet’s gender and breeding season can help give an owner an idea of when to expect these types of behaviours.
  • If an owner starts with one bird and decides to add another, determining the gender of the current pet bird can help ensure compatibility with the new bird or prevent (or allow) breeding.

How To Tell Whether Your Pet Bird Is Male or Female

While some birds have characteristics that make it possible to identify their gender, also known as sexual dimorphism, most birds look too similar to tell apart. They also lack external sexual genitalia that would allow for easy identification. 

This lack of visible distinction in physical characteristics such as size, genitalia, and colour between genders can make it nearly impossible to correctly identify a bird’s gender without further testing.

Baby Indian Ringnecks who came in for DNA sexing

What Is DNA Sexing?

To correctly identify your pet bird’s sex, the preferred, accurate, trusted method is testing your pet bird’s DNA, a process known as DNA sexing or bird sexing. The DNA sexing procedure is a safe, minimally invasive method. It involves the collection of a blood sample placed on a filter paper and sent to a lab for analysis. 

In birds, blood is typically taken from the jugular vein since there is a featherless tract on the neck — the apterylae — which makes the vein easier to spot. Once collected, DNA from the sex chromosomes of a bird is analyzed by DNA sequencing using gel electrophoresis and PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) techniques.

Surgical sexing can also be done, but since this procedure is more invasive and requires a general anaesthesia, it is only recommended in certain cases. 

Determining the sex of a pet bird can be next to impossible without professional help in some cases. 

The tiny spot of blood is placed onto the filter paper and sent off to a special laboratory to determine the gender of the Indian Ringnecks

Is DNA Sexing Accurate?

DNA sexing has been shown to provide over 99.99% accuracy in determining a bird’s sex. It also eliminates the risks involved in surgically sexing a pet bird.

Comprehensive Care for Your Pet Bird (Or Other Exotic Pets)

For more information on DNA sexing for pet birds, please do not hesitate to contact us. Our highly skilled team stays up to date with the best practices in nutrition, ideal bird home maintenance, care and treatment. 

In addition to medical care for your pet birds — as well as rabbits, ferrets, rats, mice, fish, and more — we also offer professional advice, fact and care sheets, training courses, and documentation to ensure that your bird remains healthy and properly cared for.

We also offer 24/7 online booking for your convenience.

Here you can see the featherless tract known as the apterylae that clearly shows the jugular vein where blood is drawn from