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Sexing Parrots - How to Tell If Your Parrot is Male Or Female


The parrot's lack of sex organs make it very difficult to distinguish between males and female simply based on the way they look. Some species have different colorings between male and female that enable them to be distinguished, and some have different eye colors. However, for the vast majority of parrots scientific sexing is required. Some pet owners do not take this step, but it is vital for breeders.

We describe birds where sexes cannot be determined by their markings as monomorphic, and a number of methods have been used to determine the sex of such birds including: vent sexing (the posterior opening known as the cloaca serves as the only such opening for the intestinal and urinary tracts), laparoscopy, steroid sexing (measure the levels of steroids in excrement or blood plasma), and DNA analysis.

With DNA analysis the sex of is determined by looking at the genes located on the sex chromosomes. The difference is that male birds have two Z chromosomes and females have one Z and one W. This is considered the least intrusive of the methods as it simply involves taking a sample of blood to send away to a laboratory. The laparoscopic surgery approach, however, involves a minimally invasive surgery, where an incision is made in the parrot's abdomen and the gonads are inspected.

DNA analysis is not as simple as it may at first sound, and involves chromosome isolation and karyotyping. It can be difficult to get the cells needed for analysis, and there is a time delay in getting the results from the cytogeneticist. The more invasive laparoscopy gives instant results and allows the vet to inspect the general condition of the reproductive organs at the same time, which can provide valuable information for breeding.

People often use feathers for the DNA testing instead of collecting blood, but it should be pointed out that this is highly unreliable. If you keep a male and female together then the female's W chromosome, which is in every cell on the female, could contaminate the feathers of the male.

Once you have determined your parrot's sex does it have any implications beyond making it easy to select breeding partners? Well it is fair to say the difference between male and female pet parrots is nothing like the difference between a bitch and a dog. There is no difference in their ability to mimic or any notable difference in the way they will interact with their human companions.

Danny Oakes writes about the a wide range of parrot issues, including Parrot health care along with advice on which species make the best talking parrots.
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