Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Parrot gender

I've become lax on taking pictures again so I thought it would be the perfect time to write about something that one of my volunteer friends and I have been talking about lately: knowing (or correctly guessing) parrot gender. Of course, with ekkies it's easy!

There's no question he's a male!:

With most parrots, I am clueless. In fact, I should guess that they're the opposite of what my gut says.

Using my own parrots as examples: Max's breeder told us she could tell timneh gender by the shape of their head. She was convinced Max was male. In fact, that's part of the reason we chose Max as opposed to her sibling (whose head shape purportedly made her female); we'd heard that male birds were more likely to bond to females, and Thomas was gracious enough to want the parrot to prefer me. That (that parrots bond more strongly to someone of the opposite sex) turned out to not be true either!

For almost 4 years, we used male pronouns with Max. After she started plucking, we had a DNA test done and were shocked -- shocked! -- that she was female. It took me months to switch pronouns and Max will occasionally still throw out a "good boy!" That also explains why she has a masculine name.

Enter Calypso. He portrayed behaviors that I'd read on the web pretty much guaranteed he was female (once again, don't believe everything you read on the web!) After his mutilation, we DNA tested him, and he was a male! This switch was easier since we'd only been calling him female for a few months.

Two years later, Beeps arrived. Because we already had one caique, we DNA tested him immediately to give us a better idea of how careful we had to be if the two of them became friendly (we certainly don't want fertilized eggs around here, though our concern turned out to be for naught as they want nothing to do with each other!) We started calling him Beeps in the week while we were waiting for the test results to come back to know whether to give him a male or female name and Beeps stuck. It is quite appropriate as he beeps almost constantly.

We were pretty sure Beeps was female because his behavior was completely opposite of Calypso's. Wrong again!

Rocky and Stella had been tested before they came to our house, and we could tell Daphne was female by looking at her cere.

At the rescue where I volunteer, we frequently DNA test parrots. We all have our guesses before the test results come back. I am almost always wrong.

Last week, I was wrong on three greys! One, who turned out to be female, was one of the largest greys I have ever seen -- almost 200 grams larger than Stella. I was sure he was male. Another had a plucking pattern almost identical to Stella's. In my mind, that signifies probable female. Wrong! Then there was another I thought was female who turned out to be male. Knowing my history, I shouldn't be shocked when we get the results and find I was completely wrong, but I still was!

From now on, I'm going to guess the opposite of what I think and see what happens.


Elizabeth said...

200 grams larger than Stella?! That's like a whole bird of difference.

DoodleBird said...

great, just great! I want Nani to be a girl, she HAS to be a girl...they said it was the shape of her head that gave it away. Now after reading your post I have no hope. I must do the dna test.