It’s a common event for bird lovers to find the perfect parakeet, bring it home, and then realize they need to know the gender of the bird to give it an appropriate name.
In this article we will tell you everything you need about determining gender in parakeets, despite the fact that direct inspection of reproductive parts of your bird just isn’t possible.
There are many ways to sex a parakeet
There is more than one method of determining the gender of a parakeet, Some methods are more precise than others.
Pet owners are most likely to need the help of a vet when they have parakeets with unusual feather colors patterns.
If you are trying to find out the sex of an adult parakeet with albino feathers (which can be all-orange or all-yellow, not just all-white), or you have a bird with pied, mixed-color coat, then it is best to skip the do it yourself methods of sexing your bird and go to a vet.
Your veterinarian can test a DNA sample obtained by pulling a feather or clipping a toenail.
Or your vet might do an endoscopy to take a look at your bird’s internal sex organs.
Endoscopic sexing is traumatic for your bird. It requires your bird to be put under anesthesia so the vet can insert an endoscope through its skin and into its abdominal air sacs.
The avian endoscope is a long, thin rod that contains fiber-optic imaging equipment set into its shaft.
It enables your vet to visualize your bird’s internal organs.
When the air sacs are inflated, they become transparent. They are lined by very thin, delicate membranes.
Your vet will be able to see all of the internal organs of our parakeet through the endoscope, and note whether there are ovaries or testes.
The advantages of endoscopic sexing, assuming your vet has the surgical skills to use, are that it gives very quick answers about the sex of your bird, and it can be used on birds of any age.
It can reveal other health issues that your vet can treat right away.
The disadvantages of endoscopic sexing are that it is expensive. Veterinarians have to receive separate training on how to use the equipment for diagnosing avian health issues.
Your vet has to invest about $20,000 to acquire the equipment to do it, and may charge $1,000 for the procedure. It will not be covered by pet insurance.
Also, endoscopy can cause serious complications. It can cause broken ribs, airsacculitis infections of the air sac), or peritonitis (internal abdominal cavity infection).
There needs to be an urgent reason to determine the bird’s sex to use this technique. It can result in the death of your bird.
At-Home DNA Testing
There are also at-home DNA testing kits for bird owners who aren’t squeamish about taking a blood or feather sample from their parakeet and mailing it in for analysis. We have a cautionary note about that:
Even though you can take these samples yourself, we suggest that you take your bird to the vet to do it.
It’s always best not to handle newly hatched parakeets if you don’t have to. It’s better to wait until your bird is about a year old.
Sex determination tests cost about $25 each (with a discount for multiple birds tested), and you get results back n 5 to 7 days.
You can’t use fallen feathers. You have to send in a feather plucked from your bird.
You can send in the shell of an egg from which a parakeet has recently hatched, if the lab is set up to analyze it. But there are easier ways to sex your parakeet.
Visual methods of determining the sex of your parakeet
It is usually possible to determine the sex of your parakeet by looking at the right parts of your bird’s body (which never involves inspection of their genitals).
These methods are a little less accurate than DNA testing and endoscopy, but they are easier on both your budgie and your budget, and you can do them at home.
Looking at the Cere
Parakeets are dimorphic. That is, adult males and females look different.
The easiest way to tell the difference between male and female adult parakeets is to look at their front end, not their back end.
Establishing the gender of an adult parakeet sometimes can be done by visual inspection of a part of the face known as the cere.
The cere is the area of your parakeet’s face that contains the nostrils.
Ornithologists don’t really know what the cere does. It may keep debris out of the bird’s nostrils, or it may amplify a bird’s sense of smell.
The accumulation of mucus over the cere, or the formation of crusts on the cere, are reasons to take your bird to the vet.
In parakeets, the color of the cere differs between sexes.
The cere is royal blue in males. It is white to pale brown in females that aren’t breeding. The cere darker brown in egg-laying females, and pink in immature parakeets of both sexes.
It can be more of a purplish pink in a male that has not reached sexual maturity.
There are some variations in the coloration of ceres in parakeets.
Some female budgies have brown ceres while they are laying eggs and raising young, but their ceres turn back to white when the young leave the nest.
Young female budgies that have not yet laid a clutch of eggs may have a chalky whiteness that starts around the nostrils and fades just a millimeter (0.04 inch) away from them.
There are variations in feather color that are linked with differences in cere color in adult male parakeets.
They get a little complicated.
- Albino males, which may have either white feathers or orange- or yellow-tinted feathers depending on how much beta-carotene they get in their diets, and
- Lutino males, which have red eyes, pure yellow contour feathers, pale yellow or white flight feathers and tail feathers and silvery-white patches on their cheeks, sometimes with very pale green sheen over their entire body, and
- Dark-eyed clear males, that don’t have red eyes but have clear patches in their feathers (that may appear blue or green in sunlight), and
- Danishpied or Harlequin males, which have patches of brilliant violet, blue, or green in their feathers, will have the immature, pink color of the cere for their entire lives. But a pink cere can also indicate the bird is intersex.
Looking at the cere is often all you need to do to be relatively sure of the sex of an adult parakeet.
But there are more visual inspection methods that don’t involve looking at your bird’s genitals.
Looking at the Feet
Size of your parakeet’s legs, toes, and feet
Adult male and female parakeets also differ in the colors and sizes of their feet.
Toe size is determined by sex hormones, scientists say, while the parakeet is still in the egg.
Males have longer toes than females. Males have bigger feet than females.
However, male parakeets that grew up without enough food or that were diseased may have unusually small legs, feet, and toes.
Color of your parakeet’s legs, toes, and feet
It’s also possible to tell the gender of a parakeet by looking at the color of its legs,feet, and toes.
You will also see these hormones at work on the skin of the legs and feet of a parakeet.
Mature male parakeets, at least 12 months old, will have legs and feet of the same color as their cere, usually bright blue.
Mature female parakeets, also at least 12 months old, will have legs and feet that are either brown or pink.
Color changes in the legs and feet occur gradually, over time.
There is a slow transition to mature leg and foot colors as the parakeet goes through adolescence into adulthood.
Birds that suffer reproductive disorders may not go through the hormonal changes that cause changes in leg and foot color.
Determining Your Parakeet’s Sex By Looking at Its Body and Head
Healthy male parakeets are larger in size and weight than females raised under the same conditions.
When you look at a male parakeet and a female parakeet side by side, the parakeet that has the larger head will usually be the male.
However, male parakeets that have been malnourished, or that are stunted by interbreeding or disease, may be smaller than females.
Another clue to your parakeet’s sex is its body feathers. Male parakeets typically have brighter, more vibrant feather colors than females.
Once again, there can be individual differences. Some parakeets have naturally muted feather colors.
There are also parakeets that have inbred or mutant feather colors including albino, lutino, light green, pale yellow, sky blue, or cinnamon colors.
Laying Eggs Rules Out the Possibility Your Parakeet Is Male
Lastly, there is a sure fire method of ruling out male gender for your parakeet. If your parakeet lays eggs, it is female.
Only females lay eggs. Female parakeets will generally lay eggs in the spring whether or not they have mated.
Female parakeets may lay infertile eggs if there is no male present. However, the fact that a parakeet does not lay eggs is not proof that it is male.
Some older females will not lay eggs. Some younger females will look sexually mature but won’t be ready to lay eggs quite yet.
We don’t mean to make using visual inspection to sex your parakett more complicated than it has to be.
About 95 percent of the time, you don’t have to worry about exceptions to the rules.
But if you can’t get a conclusive result by looking at your adult parakeet’s cere, you can also make reliable assumptions about sex by observing how your parakeet plays with others.
Gender differences in the ways parakeets behave
Listening to your parakeets can provide hints as to their gender.
Parakeets are among the loudest birds in the parrot family. Parakeets that are well cared for often sing, talk, or make mimicking sounds all day.
But when you compare male and female parakeets singing and vocalizing the sounds they hear around them, there’s no contest. Males are louder than females.
Female parakeets make noises, but they sound angrier and less musical than males. Males are more likely to sing or chirp songs all day.
Female parakeets are more likely to make disruptive noises when they want to be noticed.
Chattering noises are most typically made by males trying to court a female.
Both male and female parakeets may chatte when they see their own reflection. Chattering sounds different from chirping and singing.
Body Language Also Differs Between the Sexes in Parakeets
Male parakeets will tap their beaks against the cage. They are likely to constantly bob their heads up and down. This behavior looks cheerful and friendly.
Female parakeets appear more aggressive when they are in the mood to mate, or if she is fertile.
This may make the male throw up. This isn’t a sign of revulsion. This is a normal bonding behavior in parakeets which leads into mating.
The female may also regurgitate on the male. Cooing and perching close to each other will follow.
Males will sing love songs before mating. Females will act bossy and flustered and make loud noises, but they will not sing..
Scientists have observed other differences in the ways male and female parakeets behave:
- Scientists in Brazil note that female parakeets fly away in response to alarm calls from other parakeets, but males don’t.
- Male parakeets forget what their mates sound like faster than female parakeets, a study published in the journal Nature reported.
- Researchers at the University of Vienna in Austria have discovered that female parakeets prefer songs with a stronger rhythm than male parakeets. “Female budgies ‘got rhythm,” one scientist commented.
- And scientists at the University of Maryland discovered that parakeets also can distinguish between the behaviors of male and female adult humans. They also can tell the difference between male and female faces of humans they do not know.
Don’t spend too much time and effort trying to determine the sex of parakeets right after they have hatched.
It won’t be easy to determine sex until they are ready to mate.
Just be aware that female parakeets will be more aggressive toward you, especially when they are defending their eggs and fledglings, while male parakeets will have the luxury of becoming an affectionate, cheerful, singing pet.
Other articles you may also like:
- What Do Parakeets Eat in the Wild? All You Need to Know!
- 10 Best Toys for Parakeets (that they would love)
- Can Parakeets Live in Cold Weather?
- Can Parakeets Be Left Alone for a Few Days?
- What’s the Difference Between a Parrot and a Parakeet?
- Should You Clip Your Parakeet’s Wings?
- Difference Between Male and Female Parakeet