Most parrots are monomorphic. This means that both sexes are identical. The actions of the birds don’t mean a thing either. Productive pairs might show little or no affection for each other. Unfortunately the reverse is all to true. Any two parrots of the same or even different species will often begin to preen, feed, and copulate. A “couple” of hens might even go to nest and lay infertile eggs. With many kinds of parrots, the birds actually form pair bonds in these homosexual couples. This means that if two birds of the same sex are kept together for too long, they may not pair up if offered partners of the opposite sex.
To avoid wasting time, both yours and the birds, three main methods of determining gender are used. Surgical sexing is the most widespread. In surgical sexing a veterinarian anesthetizes the birds and use an instrument called a laporascope to actually view the birds internal sex organs through a small incision. A trained avian veterinarian should have no trouble determining if the bird is a male or a female using this technique. Your vet will also be able to give you much valuable information concerning the bird’s health, age, and reproductive potential.
Since this is a surgical procedure, there is a possibility of loss of the bird. This is extremely unlikely. I and many aviculturists friends have taken birds for surgical sexing. Never have we had any bad results. Very small birds like lovebirds may look a little “out of it” for about twenty-four hours. Conures will be fine in about an hour. The giants like macaws will be up and complaining within minutes of the operation.
Hormonal sexing and chromosome sexing are two other methods for determining the sex of a bird. One advantage that these procedures offer is that they are non-invasive. This means that the bird is never knocked out and cut open. The bird’s life is never at risk. Another advantage is that the bird owner can send the specimen directly to the lab. If no avian vet is available, hormonal and chromosomal sexing will be the only choices.
As in any laboratory test, there exists the possibility of error. The samples must be properly prepared. Especially in the case of chromosomal sexing, collection of the specimen may be complicated. A competent, trained technician must do the actual lab work. The tests work better for some species of birds than for others. All three methods cost about the same.
Most breeders use surgical sexing to actually pair up the adult birds. Many aviculturists use chromosomal sexing as a factor in deciding which baby birds to sell.