Is My Bird Male or Female?
By Eleanor McCaffrey,
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DNA testing on a blood sample, chest feathers or the egg shell that your bird hatched from can determine the gender of your bird with 100% accuracy. Surgical sexing is another method used to determine gender, but it's reserved for larger species of birds because the bird must be anaesthetized. Although not always accurate, your avian vet may be able to detect the gender of your bird by examining pelvic bones and feather patterns. Cockatiels have 2 bony ridges at the base of their abdomens, above the vent. In females, the structures are more flexible and further apart. A person inexperienced with breeding and examining birds should NOT try to do this. You can seriously injure your bird. Breeders frequently use visual clues which suggest whether a cockatiel is male or female. Most color mutations are monomorphic, meaning that there is no visual difference in the appearance of a male or female cockatiel. However, in normal grays, lutinos, fallows, silvers and cinnamons, males will have bright yellow faces and bright orange cheek patches.  The female will have duller cheek patches, all gray or all brown faces, spots under wing feathers and barring on their tail feathers. You may need to hold one of these feather up to a bright light and use a magnifying glass to see them.  The picture above shows the brightly colored face of a male, normal gray cockatiel.

Gender can often be determined by an individual bird's body language as well. Males are usually more vocal than females and they are capable of mimicking words and sounds. (A very small percentage of females can sing and talk as well. )Males will start to whistle and imitate sounds at about 6 months of age. Many of them will have mastered the "wolf whistle" before being welcomed into their forever homes. Body and courtship behavior provide other clues to help determine gender. Males will pull their wings back to form the shape of a heart when whistling. Males also tap on cage bars, food dishes, toys and other surfaces to attract the attention of a mate. One male behavior that often puzzles and disturbs new bird owners is the sight of their bird briskly rubbing the vent against a toy, perch or other object, while quickly swishing the tail from side to side. Adult male birds will masturbate if their hormones are stimulated. Females on the other hand, exhibit a much different and more subtle behavior when ready to mate. The female will tilt her head down forward, then slightly elevate the tail, while making soft chirping sounds. The picture above towards the left shows the soft, almost entirely gray face of a female normal gray. (All very young, normal grays look like females until after their first molt.)

Pieds and Lutino Whitefaces can not be visually sexed. A pied has a combination of colors along with the colors of a normal gray. If a Pied cockatiel has dark tail feathers, it may be possible to tell a female if there are bars on the tail feathers. A lutino whiteface is a pure yellow or pure white bird with a white face. The orange cheek patches were genetically eliminated through selective breeding.

Lutinos --Lutinos can have a slight difference between males and females. All lutinos are pure pale yellow to pure white birds with orange cheek patches. Lutinos will not have a speck of gray coloration on their bodies. Female lutinos have bright yellow spots under their wing and very light yellow bars on their tails. These markings may be difficult to see without using a very bright light. Male lutinos will lack these markings.

Normal Grays --are dimorphic with distinct, visually differences between males and females. Females have  gray faces and crests, dull orange cheek patches and a tint of yellow around their forehead, eyes and beaks. Females also have yellow spots on the underside of their wing feathers. The bar pattern on their tails are yellow and gray. Males  have bright orange cheek patches and bright yellow faces. Their crests are all yellow, tipped with gray.

Pearls --are dimorphic after their first molt. Pearls are gray, brownish or yellow, birds with speckled white markings that look like pearls. Male birds will lose their pearl markings, usually after their first molt. After the first molt males will have yellow or white faces. Female birds will have faces that are gray or brownish.

Mutations are the result of in-breeding various colored cockatiels. Mutations which produce gray/brown birds with white or yellow markings include Whiteface, Pastel Face, Yellow Cheek, Silver, Fallow Cinnamon, etc . Females have gray or brown faces, spots under their wing feathers, and a bar pattern on their tails. Females will also have lighter cheek patches. Males will have white or yellow faces and crests. Males will not have the spots and bar patterns that females have.

These 2   pictures show the bars and spots found on female, normal graycockatiels and some of the other cockatiel color mutations.

Tiel Treasures, Photos of All Cockatiel Mutations

Photos of All Cockatiel Color Mutations, NACS

NACS Photos of Cockatiel Gender by Color Mutations

It doesn't matter if your bird is a male or female, unless you want to breed them. Male and female cockatiels both make wonderful pets. Two males or 2 females will also bond together as companions. It is often said that males are more likely to sing. From all of the feedback I have received from visitors, this depends on the individual bird and how much time you spend working with them. A very small percentage of females do sing and talk.

Special Thanks to all who shared pictures of their birds with us!


Graphics Courtesy of
Graphic Garden, Thank You Helena
Lalla's Countryside, Thank you Lalla

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