Usually, a bird’s gender is unknown to other species of beings; it is a well kept secret for the bird itself and its kind. When nature created the birds, it never took into consideration the human specie and the knowledge that this last one needs.
In some birds, the gender can be identified by the individual’s colors, wither completely, or, in some cases, only when they reach maturity. The eclectus male for instance is green, while the female is red. At maturity, the nasal area (cere) of a parakeet male is blue and the female’s one is brow. However, there are still many species of birds that don’t have different colors depending on the gender.
The importance of knowing a pet’s gender is represented by their owners’ desire to give them proper names or to know what pronouns to use when they are addressing or referring to the animals. It also matters for the breeding of the animals because some people know not to expect babies from a pair of birds of the same sex.
Many methods were discovered so far to determine the birds’ gender, some of them scientific and some of them, most of them, non – scientific, discovered by common people in their own houses. We will show and overview of the scientific methods of discovering the birds’ sex: DNA Sexing, Surgical Sexing, Blood Feather Testing and Fecal Analysis.
Every method of testing has both negative and positive sides and the best one is the one that fits the owner’s needs and the situation.
The DNA Sexing method:
In this procedure, a drop of the bird’s blood is required for a DNA testing. The DNA will show an image that will provide reliable information about the bird’s gender. This method is very accurate but it takes up to four weeks to be processed.
The blood is collected from a vein or a toenail by the owner and placed in a prepared collection of vial. This way it can be sent to a lab even by using regular mail. This method is very easy to be performed and it is not stressful.
A bird’s DNA is unique and cannot be modified. So, as in human DNA, a bird’s one is the same since the moment of birth until death. Those tests performed on birds DNA can also be stored by the labs that own a data bank and can be later used for identification or matching.
This method is thus, very easy to be done, it is not expensive and if the period of waiting for the results is not a problem, it may be the best choice. This DNA test will show a bird’s gender and not its capability of reproducing.
The surgical sexing method:
The second method of discovering a bird’s gender is the surgical sexing. This can be done only by a veterinarian, through endoscopic surgery. The bird is put under anesthesia and through a small cut in the bird’s skin, the veterinarian inserts a small metal tube with a light attached on, called the endoscope. This way, the bird’s sexual organs can be seen and, along with the gender, the veterinarian can determine the sexual maturity, any abnormalities and the possibility of reproduction.
Even though this method is very accurate and quick, it may put the bird under a lot of stress. Unlike the DNA sexing method, this one provides immediate results for the owner, in case this one is interested in breeding the bird. The procedure is quite safe, but, on some occasions, it may generate some post - operative or anesthesia complications. The primary concern was the injected anesthesia because it induced a long period of sleep and vomiting. Researchers have discovered new anesthetics for the birds, gases that eliminate the side effects caused by the injected ones. Those new anesthetics are considered by the experts to have negligible risks and the bird will wake up in a matter of minutes after the gas mask is removed.
In the past, veterinarians used to tattoo birds after their genders were determined through surgery. Males were tattooed under the right wing and females under the left one. More recently, microchips or leg bands were used for marking them.
The Blood Feather Analysis (BFA) method:
This method requires a blood chromosome test. This test is performed on cultured tissue from the bird’s blood feathers. If the bird has no blood feathers, some will be pulled out and in their place new ones will grow in two or three weeks. Those feathers are put in a special container with cold packs and sent via priority mail to the laboratory where their tissue is grown and researched under a microscope. The results will appear in around two weeks.
As in the case of DNA sexing of the birds, this method is accurate and safe; and it works on any bird regardless the age but the results are not prompt. As negative sides of this testing method are the higher costs for priority mail and the impossibility of checking the sexual organs of the birds in the cases of breeders.
The Fecal Method of gender determination:
This method is not as accurate as the others and it depends on more than one factor. It consists in collecting fresh fecal samples from the bird in special conditions and mailing them to the lab. The specialists will determine the gender by the hormones (estrogen and testosterone) level from the fecal sample. This method can only be applied on mature birds and it depends on the health of the birds and on the conditions of the sample’s collection.
The fecal method is not expensive, is safe and should bring the results in one week.
Every person will choose the sexing method for his or her bird as it best fits his or her needs. Probably, the breeders will choose the surgical method because of it’s advantages, while those who own a pet bird will choose DNA or BFA methods.