With very few exceptions, parrots are sexually monomorphic. This means that you cannot determine the gender of the bird by looking at it. Unlike mammals, parrots have reproductive organs that are internal--with the exception of the cloaca, which is identical in both sexes. The easiest and least expensive method for determining a parrot's gender is through DNA testing. Several companies offer DNA testing as a mail-order service that generally costs about $20.
Things You'll Need
- DNA-testing kit
- Nail clippers
- Flour, cornstarch or Quickstop
Order a DNA-testing kit from the laboratory you will be using. (See the links in Resources.) DNA test kits are usually offered free to prospective customers.
Gather the supplies you'll need to collect the sample. You will need the DNA testing kit, nail clippers and a towel. You should also have a small dish of flour, cornstarch or Quickstop available to stop the bleeding once the sample has been collected. Open the testing kit and lay out the supplies on a table, where they can easily be accessed.
Restrain your parrot by draping the towel over him and holding his neck just below the jaw. Wrap the towel around him to prevent him from flapping his wings and injuring himself.
Turn the parrot upside down so that his feet are facing upwards. Use the nail clippers to cut about 1/3 of one toenail off. The cut end of the nail should begin to bleed almost immediately.
Hold the cut nail over the blood collection card and allow the blood to drip onto the target circle until it is nearly filled.
Apply cornstarch, flour or Quickstop to the cut end of the nail, then apply pressure for about 1 minute to stop the bleeding. Once the bleeding has completely stopped, return the parrot to her cage and offer her a treat.
Place the blood-collection card in the plastic bag provided and fill out the necessary forms. Mail it to the laboratory you will be using, along with payment. The turnaround time on results varies depending on the company, but is usually no more than a week.
Tips & Warnings
- Feather sexing, although somewhat more expensive, is also available from most labs that perform blood DNA tests. This may be a better option for parrot owners who prefer to avoid collecting a blood sample. However, keep in mind that the feathers must be freshly plucked from the bird, and several are usually required.
- If your parrot continues to bleed after applying Quickstop and pressure for 1 minute, call your avian vet for advice while continuing to apply pressure to the cut nail. Parrots can bleed to death very quickly.
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