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How to Tell the Sex of a Parakeet (and Other Feathered Friends)

Oct 23, 2017 | Pets & Vets

Humans have been keeping pet birds for centuries. For a long time, keeping birds as pets was only a hobby for the wealthy. Then sailors from Portugal brought canaries to Europe, and made keeping birds as pets possible for all classes of people. Since the beginning of bird domestication, finding out how to tell the sex of a parakeet and other types of birds has been important for pet owners. But how prevalent is bird ownership in the first place?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, only about 3.1% of American households own pet birds. On average, people usually keep at least two birds. Indeed, it has been said birds are like potato chips: You can’t have just one. And when you have more than one of any animal, there’s always the possibility of the population increasing. Some people want to breed their birds, and some people don’t. So how can you tell the sex of a parakeet?

How to Tell the Sex of a Parakeet: Old-Fashioned Methods

  • Physical appearance and behavior can be observed and compared, but there is no hard and fast way to do this with all species of birds. In some species, the female is larger than the male, or has less flashy colors
  • Some of the more dependable methods used to determine gender in birds are invasive, and come with some risk, such as surgical sexing done by a veterinarian
  • And the easy way: if it lays an egg, it’s a female

Reliable Bird Sexing Through DNA Testing

So how to tell the sex of a parakeet or other pet birds? There must be a better way. Actually, there’s now an easy and affordable way to test your bird, and it can be done with a minimum of discomfort. Since September 2004, DDC Veterinary has offered the choice of testing blood cards or feathers, and the cost is under $25 per bird.

Which Bird DNA Sample Type is Best?

Blood Cards for Bird DNA Testing

Blood cards are popular for those with a large aviary, or needing to test very young birds. This involves clipping a nail just a little shorter than normal, and blotting 1-3 drops of blood on a piece of paper. Bird owners experienced in grooming trim their birds’ nails all the time, and have the equipment to use sanitized clippers and coagulant, which stops the bleeding once the sample is collected. It helps to have someone restrain the bird, especially if it’s a big cockatoo!

Feather Samples for Bird DNA Testing 

Feather samples can be collected from the bird’s chest. The follicle of a cleanly plucked feather is what contains the DNA material. However, with newly hatched or molting birds, the follicle will not be mature enough for a good sample, and the blood card method is preferred.

How to sex a parakeet and swans too

Yes, these methods are not completely stress-free, but the results are much more accurate than any other method. And there is no anesthesia risk! So if your family acquires a few lovebirds for companionship or if you really, really want to know how to tell the sex of a parakeet, you can find out if there may be little chicks in your future!

Without Feather Ado

A Little Bird Story with a Happy Ending

When a hunter accidentally killed a Great-Horned Owl, it had three chicks that had to be rescued. They were brought into a raptor rehabilitation program at a local state park’s nature center. The chicks were dubbed Larry, Curly and Moe during their stay. When they were old enough, the program released them back into the wild. One of the chicks kept coming back to the release site, and it became obvious it was imprinted (dependent on humans). So Larry was kept by the nature center, and became a program bird that went to local schools to teach people about wildlife.

Years after Larry came to stay, the naturalist came in one morning to a fun surprise. Larry had laid an egg! She retained the name Larry though, as it seemed to fit her grumpy nature.

Get a Bird-Sexing DNA Test >

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