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Sex and the Single Bird
Posted by Mitch Rezman on 12/12/2013 to Bird & Parrot Care
There's two sides to this conversation. there's the "your bird needs to have some sort of sexual satisfaction in their life" and there's the "what sex is your bird"?

Let's start with bird sexing.

About 20 to 25% of parrots are classified as sexually dimorphic. This means you can tell them apart by their color. Male Eclectus parrots are green and females are red. Male Indian and African Ringnecks, when mature have a neck ring, females have no ring.

You can determine the sex of certain species of finches by their actions when separated from the flock. Female lovebirds will shred paper into feather like strips and tuck the paper under their feathers, male birds just turn the paper to confetti.

Malel and female Eclectus Parrots allopreening

In general as budgies approach a year old the cere, or the fleshy region just above the beak turns blue for males and a brownish or pinkish color for females. But what if your bird is among the 75% of monomorphic birds where both the male and female appeared to be identical?

We can't tell male and female birds apart by looking at their genitalia because it's inverted (about 3% of birds actually have a penis). Males and females alike open up and bring together their cloacas, a basic single opening through which all the birds' various bodily emissions pass, in order to have sex.

For many years, the only way you could determine the sex of a bird was to go to a veterinarian and have the bird surgically sexed. The veterinarian would use a laparoscope through a small incision in the abdomen and identify the sex organs. Today science has made great strides. For less than 20 bucks you can mail a drop of blood to a "who's your daddy" DNA testing lab and find out the results in about a week via mail. If you're interested you can order a test kit here.

On the"your bird needs to have some sort of sexual satisfaction in their life" side of the equation we have to understand that birds, not unlike humans and most species have the instinctive need to reproduce. We bring these birds into our homes, mutilate their wings (by clipping their feathers), put them in 10 square-foot jails and wonder why they get aggressive or begin to self mutilate. Yes I know there's lots of exceptions but rescues are overflowing with birds whose companions lacked an understanding of their needs.

We had a Facebook fan reach out to us couple of weeks ago and she was distraught because she had one male and three female budgies but no eggs. Apparently she felt she was better off with more females when in fact she created a love triangle/square jealousy something and simply needed to remove two of the females to allow the one female and one male do their thing.

What brought this entire discussion to mind was being home one evening with Popcorn, our little cockatiel. She's fully flighted and flits around our apartment with very tall ceilings looking for things to keep herself occupied. In between ground (floor) foraging activity, she will fly to one of us seeking some petting. One day we noticed not long after stroking her from head to tail, she raised her rear end into the air and made little cooing sounds clearly indicating "female" sexual display. We knew right then that she was a female, without the DNA testing. We knew what brought this on. It was petting her a bit more aggressively along the length of her body. She is now restricted to head scritching only, which she still adores, to avoid her going into a broody mood and thus start laying infertile eggs. Sometimes this action is hard to stop and they will deplete calcium from their bodies causing egg binding and even death.

When you pet your bird below the neck, stroking its soft and supple feathered body, in the birds mind you have begun - foreplay. Some of us aren't able to pet our birds. We tell people to think of parrots as autistic three-year-old children in feather suits that speak a different language. And this will never change.

With or without prompting, your bird is still going to have "needs", and as much as this may shock you it's very important for the birds will being that you help deal with the situation. Before you send the kids out of the room and you cover your husband's eyes, the solution could be as simple as this.

Bird Foot Toy


The balls give them something to rub up against - and leave it at that. Balls also make great foot toys for bigger birds. They can be quite entertaining and easy to keep a couple on the play top area of the cage or the floor of the cage.

I have abbreviated this information because I know not all of us have a lot of time to study and engage all of our hobbies and passions but I do hope this was informative. I will be more than happy to carry on the discussion right here on the blog, or on our Facebook fan page..


Mitch Rezman
CMO
Windy City Parrot



What bird owners have to say
Janet Ma'ly Date 12/14/2013
I'd had a lineolated parakeet for some years when suddenly I noticed him humping a ball toy we had always had but pretty much ignored. I guess he was a late bloomer. I'm glad to know he's not feeling deprived and in need of a female bird as long as he has his ball toy. Thanks for the tips on this subject, WCP.
Josie Date 12/14/2013
I have an afgrican grey I don't know if it's a male or female but when my boyfriend pets it around the neck it spits up these round little white things like it's trying to feed him why is that?
Cheryl Reese Date 12/14/2013
I have raised parrots (all kinds but have mostly Amazon breeders now) for well over 25 years, and one of the things that disturbs me the most is how so many rescue have tried to make bird-breeders into the enemy. Nothing could be further from the truth, we are only providing them with the opportunity to do what comes naturally to them, and breeder birds tend to get better care and nutrition than most pets do. Don't get me wrong, I have pet birds as well, but I fully understand the situations when the birds start wanting a mate. If you keep them busy and not around other birds of a like species, you may never have to go through this. But there are still those rescues that consider breeders to be the reason for unwanted birds, and that's not necessarily the truth. Most breeders that breed, hand-feed the babies and socialize them to make the best pet, are very choosy as to who gets their birds, and if they're salt as a breeder try to spend as much time as possible trying to educate the new owners on thing like specific care needs, safe toys and having a happy relationship with their bird forever. Unfortunately some new bird owners are so excited about getting their new bird that you say to them goes in one ear and out the other, and they later when the newness and excitement fades and they decide owning a talking parrot isn't everything they thought it would. Problems will arise, and they have to be willing to learn to cope with them and correct them. Then they decide it's just not worth their time and effort and said birds wind up in a sanctuary somewhere, where as if they reached back out to the breeders for advice they could learn how to overcome their problems. But they don't and the rescues places tend to blame the breeder for this. Believe me, when I sell a baby bird that I have put so much time and effort into, I want to make sure it's a forever home. I even even send them with a very extensive booklet to refer to, since I know they won't remember everything I tell them. Furthermore, the rescues (if you want to call them that, as many are actuary more like brokers when you consider that they charge an "adoption fee". Don't get me wrong, I've taken in rescue birds in where they were just given to me for free. If they don't fit in with my small flock, I work with the bird some and then try to find an appropriate FOREVER home for them. Only thing is, I don't normally charge an adoption fee at all, unless of course there were some large veterinary bills that I had to pay, but usually I don't collect that either as I recognize those trusted me to provide the best for them, and because some people are more financially better off does not necessarily make for the best home, and too often they are seen as a commodity. Most rescues will not let breeders adopt their birds. They seem to have it in their mind that most bird breeders are like puppy mills and they are kept in deplorable conditions. While I don't doubt that there are some breeders like that, the vast majority of breeders provide the utmost of care, and the happiness of the bird is what matters be that with or without a mate.
ncfishnman910 Date 12/14/2013
Our cockatiel has gotten very aggressive as of late. He (?) has started raising his tail and backing up against his cage. Sometimes squatting on the bottom of his cage and rubbing his body againt the bottom. He is not hand trained and now will go after any hand that goes in his cage to remove feeding and watering dish, I am pretty quick, but he has drawn blood once so far and now the wife is kinda scared of him. he will hiss at me sometimes and is ready to bite. he still sings and talks and will fly to you when inside his cage. We don't let him out due to the fact he has full flight feathers. Looking for a pet groomer to come to the house and clip his wings and toe nails. but so far no luck. Don't know what to do now. even showed him a pic of a cooked Cornish game hen and told him to settle down or he is next!!!! LOL..
Tanya Stark Date 12/15/2013
I have to weigh in on this budgie menage a trois. A breeder a pet store owner advised me I could keep "all the small conures together in a very large an over sized cage". (I rescued 2 males nandays and a female jenday) I already had 2 male nandays who were bonded to each other. The bonded nandays I had broke up one bonded with the jenday and the other nanday bonding with one of the other nandays. This left 1 unattached nanday. This went ok for a few weeks until I came downstairs to find several feathers outside the cage. Take a head count I had 3 nandays 1 jenday in the cage only to discover 1 dead nanday concealed under the shredded newspaper. Odd numbers of caged parrots do not work out nor do 2 males together especially during the raging hormone season. While I do allow some of our parrots out to socialize with each other, it is now for a specific period of time with supervision. Any aggressive behaving parrot is confined to quarters until the testosterone levels out. This unfortunately is part of our confinement of our companions. It perverts their normal behavior in the wild as with the violence committed with breeding cockatoos murdering or mutilating their mates.
Linda Presley Date 12/15/2013
My 19 yr. old B&G macaw uses his 1/2 " diameter rope x 18 in.long..that hangs from the curtain rod for hanging and playing on.......to satisfy himself , when that time of year comes around! He sits on a lower curtain rod and grabs the rope with his foot and stretches that leg waaaayyyyy back! I feel like I should leave the room to give him some privacy! But glad he is happy.
Mike Reiff Date 12/15/2013
i have a male eclectus about 1 and 3/4 years old lately every afternoon he uses my right hand as his hunping toy ,then flaps up to my face to feed me trying to stuff his beek in my mouth, and repeats this for several minutes and gets quite upset if i interrupt !!
Mitch Rezman Date 12/16/2013
hi vheitman Your bird is trying to bond with you and the regurgitation is her way of "feeding" you - I don't have a good answer as to how to stop this. I would certainly reach out to the breeder. One thing you might want to try if you haven't already, is to make sure that you have full-spectrum lighting over the cage area on a timer. Seasonal changes can confuse birds and put them in a breeding mode.
vheitman Date 12/16/2013
We have a black masked lovebird that is 2 years old. We bought her from a reputable breeder who had her surgically sexed. We do not clip her wings and she is very social with us but does not like to be touched by our hands. She spends a lot of time out of her large, toy-filled cage...always wanting to be where we are and curious about what we are doing. This past summer she began humping everything in sight and regurgitating almost constantly. We thought it was a seasonal phase but this behavior has continued and if anything is worse. She particularly likes to hump our feet! She regurgitates on perches, floors, us...you name it she recycles her food on it. Any suggestions as to what we can do to break her of this?
Mitch Rezman Date 12/16/2013
hi Josie Your bird is regurgitating because he/she is bonding with your boyfriend and that's your birds way of "feeding" him. It's great that the bird let your boyfriend pet him, but make sure that the petting is all neck and above - gentle caresses below the neck of basically a birdie turn on
Taryn Palo Date 12/16/2013
I have an umbrella cockatoo. I have read your numerous comments on clipping vs flight. I also have heard many many opinions regarding the sex aspect. M VS F - petting vs not .. etc. I think - and this is just in my experience ... and Koko's. I wanted a too for over 20 years and did not ever get one because I did not have a suitable home. Once I got her - as a baby - I let the breeder wean her out for 3 months. I was then told all about the no petting lines - the clip vs non clip - etc etc. But see - she was never a pet to me. She became a part of my life. Just like a child - sometimes I get tired of her - she has gone through issues with my husband. But I would never give her up. I made a commitment - just as strong as the one I made to my husband. She went through a feather picking phase - she out grew it. She is 16 years old. She is never happier than when she is sitting on my shoulder or sitting near me. She is a COMPANION parrot - in every sense of the word. I have 2 house rabbits - 2 cats - I have had companion animals all of my life. But I really don't think you can tell me that she would be more fulfilled by flying. I think that people who advocate that may own more than one bird. And I would love to have an aviary of flying birds that I could protect. But Koko sits here on my shoulder - I wish you could ask her what she prefers. Can you really tell me the relationship is not as fulfilling for me as her?
Sandy Date 12/17/2013
Bird sexuality! A long time ago I had a male budgie who humped his bell (he had them all over the house). When I took them away, he suddenly discovered this perfectly lovely female and settled down to have babies. Currently I have a pair of mismatched conures, a pair of Timneh greys, and two unattached females, a Senegal and a young Spectacled Amazon. The pairs mate at some point during the year and have been known to lay eggs that don't hatch. The Senegal loves her nest box and has an egg cycle every summer. The Amazona is just discovering her adolescent self and has been picking out nest sites on the top of the fridge and the top shelf of the linen closet. Today I delivered her very own nest box. All the others have one and real estate is as important to these birds as it is to residents of NYC. She just discovered it. She will have to carve an appropriate entry hole and then it will be hers. You are entirely correct about petting below the neck. She also assumes the position (squatted down, tail up) without any encouragement and has done so for a couple of years.She really does not understand what is going on, just like any adolescent! It is amazing that a hen can sit in a box for 3 to 4 weeks and not go nuts! They appear quite stoned, but seem to find it fulfilling.
Aviva Ishi Date 12/17/2013
I have a male budgie. he was purchased from a 'parrot farm' in the area and is tame. so he has the run of our apt and uses his cage for feeding, sleeping and time out only. sometimes we see him wiping his 'bottom' on the floor as if attempting to scratch an itch there. does this has anything to do with sexual activity? we don't have little balls for him to play with but he does have a budgie-sized frisbee which he loves to play with and a small plastic toy car. is it really important for him to have that ball? does it have to have a bell inside or would any small toy ball do? thanks.
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