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Traditional sex identification methods VS DNA sexing
Several traditional sex identification methods are still used nowadays as alternative to DNA sexing. Nevertheless, all those methods do not offer enough reliability and, in many cases, it is necessary to wait until the bird has reached maturity (within 10 months-1 year) to use them. Among the different species of Lovebirds, only few of them show sexual dimorphism (you can tell their sex just looking at the color of the plumage), the rest of them do not show any sexual dimorphism (we cannot determine their gender as they present no physical differences between sexes).
The species with no sexual dimorphism are the following: fischeri, personatus and roseicollis; the three more popular species. The species lilianae and nigrigenis also show no external differences between sexes. On the other hand, the species that does show sexual dimorphism are: taranta, pullarus and canus.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO KNOW THE SEX OF YOUR LOVEBIRD?
There are several reasons why we would want to know the sex of our lovebird. Either for giving our lovebird a name (which might be not so important for some people, but it is if you want to bond with your pet) or in the case you want to get a couple to breed. It also can help us in case of health problems. For instance, I have a DNA sexed female lovebird, so I know that when she is in heat she will usually lay not fertile eggs.
Knowing her sex helps me to be more alert for avoiding egg binding and easily recognize its symptoms. Besides, during breeding season I also need to adapt the cage and the diet of my female lovebird. Anything that might seem like a nesting area and some foods like egg food or germinated seeds will prompt her to go into heat.
TRADITIONAL SEX IDENTIFICATION METHODS - Width of the pubic arch
We can touch VERY GENTLY the hip bones of our birds, located above the cloaca. If your lovebird is a female, its hip bones should be separated and if they are close together your bird is probably a male. But this method is not very reliable, especially if you do not have another bird to compare the hip bones with. Besides, this can only be checked when the bird is sexually mature, so apart from the fact that this method is not very effective, it can be too late anyway.
- The size of the bird. Females tend to be bigger than males.
- The size of the head The shape of the head of female lovebirds is more rounded.
- Behavior Females are more territorial than males and they become very aggressive during breeding season. They will keep spreading their wings and lifting their tails all day long. But males might copy this behavior leading to misunderstandings.
Female Fischer's lovebird in heat. “spreaded wings” Males regurgitate food to feed females and make a kind of “dance", but it seems that also females can make it, so it is not a reliable method either.
DNA BIRD SEXING
DNA sex determination being the most reliable method gives an accuracy rate greater than 99.99%. This test is performed in specialized laboratories as BBT and basically what we do is analyzing the feather, blood or eggshell samples to determine if your bird is a male of a female.
DNA extraction from feathers This method has become widely spread thank to its low cost, reliability, efficacy and quickness, besides it is not harmful or invasive for animals. Here you can see a video tutorial about how to collect the feathers to send them to our laboratory:
For being completely sure of the sex of your lovebird (or any monomorphic bird) and for knowing how to satisfy its needs, I would personally recommend to get your bird DNA tested. Even if you own a couple of budgies and they have chicks, you would not know their sexes after 6 or 8 months after hatching. DNA sexing tests have such a low cost that it is advisable to sex them using this method.