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Sex and the Single Bird

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
Windy City Parrot

Mitch Rezman

He's handled a 1000 birds of numerous species when they visited monthly birdie brunches in the old Portage Park (Chicago, IL) facility. The one with the parrot playground.Mitch has written and published more than 1100 articles on captive bird care.He's met with the majority of  CEO's and business owners for most brands in the pet bird space and does so on a regular basis.He also constantly interacts with avian veterinarians and influencers globally.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Thanks for your efforts and info Mitch. A few years ago I witnessed a friend’s pineapple green cheek doing an odd physical activity and making a funny noise. It was obvious the bird wasn’t in distress, but I had not seen this before. I was quite surprised when my friend said the bird was masterbating…. Three years later, my own young pineapple began doing the same thing. Low and behold, there are YouTube videos of such activities. Who knew! But, occasional self pleasuring is much easier and cheaper than dealing with actual breeding pairs. Thanks again sharing your passion and knowledge.


    1. This is all very informative and enlightening for me as well! Thanks all for the great info and stories. I had thought this behavior was something unique to my little Senegal Max.

      I keep a few little wooden balls in a “toy area” on top of my other parrot’s cage (which is flatter) next to Sam’s. These are the kind with a hole through center that are strung on larger cage toys, about 1.5″ in dia.

      Sam loves hopping over to the other cage each morning, He methodically picks up one of balls and carries over to his own cagetop, carefully positioning it so it does not roll off.

      At first, he enjoyed going “bowling” with these. He would bring each ball over to his cagetop, line them all up, then throw them onto the vinyl floor of the adjoining room and watch them roll!

      But then he found a more pleasurable purpose for these!
      Now he just brings one over and rides it like a mini mechanical bull, making strange little noises with dilated eyes! Until it eventually rolls off of course. If still in the mood, he knows there are “spares” next door!

      My other parrot, a Pionus, has zero interest and absolutely no use at all for the little wooden balls.

  2. I have 2 macaws and 1 conure all in their own cages! They also masterbate on a specific toy. When I lived in FL years ago I was very concerned at first and took my macaw to an Avian Vet. He actually laughed and told me I should be glad that it had not chosen to do so on my arm. As many pet birds will! Funnier still is that when one begins, the other ones will often start soon after! Dare I say bird orgy?

  3. My 23yr Male? CAG humps beer bottles every once in a while and my 9 or 10 yr old Male Ekkie humps my hand on a daily basis.

  4. My 23yr Male? CAG humps beer bottles every once in a while. My 9 or 10yr Male Ekkie humps my hand on a daily basis.

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