By Wendy Young
Last Updated September 7, 2021

Call them a budgie, parakeet or by their Latin name, if you’re new to bird ownership, there’s a lot to learn, regardless of their name. Knowing how to tell if a parakeet is male or female is just one of the things parakeet owners may need to understand. If you’re struggling with your budgie and want to know what you should expect, based on their sex, then knowing how to tell the gender can make a huge difference. Similarly, if you’re after sexing your baby budgies after breeding, then this article will tell you all you need to know.

Why Does Sexing Your Parakeet Matter?

Aside from basic egg-laying etiquette, having as much information as possible when it comes to your budgie is key to giving them a healthy and happy life. Of course, in order to tell the gender, you’ll also find that you pick up a lot of your parakeets along the way, too. After all, it’s not just breeders who need to tell the gender of a male or female budgie – it’s all budgie owners!

To Make Sure Your Parakeets Get Along

Parakeet gender is more important than simply understanding how to breed your birds. If you have a female budgie, then you should know that they can be more territorial and don’t always respond well to having another female around.

Males, on the other hand, can get along famously with one another – as long as you introduce them to one another, slowly. So, as you can see it’s not all about appearances – but their personality, too.

To Not be Surprised by Eggs

Similarly, if you have a male budgie initially, and then decide to accidentally introduce females into the cage, you’ll not only risk the territorial aspect – but risk surprise eggs, too. While females will still lay eggs (and you may occasionally find them at the bottom of your cage), these eggs won’t be fertilized. Of course, if you think you have a male and find yourself with eggs… Well, then you have an answer, already!

To Learn More about Your Bird

Females and males have very different personalities. In fact, they’re so different that you can sometimes guess the sex of your parakeets without needing to look further! We go into more detail about that, below, but it’s worth understanding that your budgies will have different traits and needs, based on their gender.

As such, knowing more about your birds means you’re more in tune with those personalities – and you may even be able to get along better with each other, if you understand these personalities.

The good news is that figuring out the answer as to whether you have a female or male parakeet is surprisingly easy, once you know how. This is because a budgie (like a parrot, or a cockatiel) is sexually dimorphic. In other words, there are distinct differences between the male and female, which make it easier to tell the gender of your feathery friend. As long as you’re working with an adult budgie of course (a budgie over one year old).

How to Tell Your Parakeets Sex

There are 4 different types of sexing used to help you tell the gender of your parakeets apart. Some are easier than others, while the most intrusive methods are, sadly, the most accurate. Be wary, however, as all the different ways won’t account for age. Baby parakeets will look similar, until they’re roughly one year of age.

Asking The Pet Shop

The quickest and easiest way to check if your parakeets are male or female will be to ask the shop you’re getting them from. This may seem obvious, but many pet owners often forget about this aspect of picking out a new pet.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask in advance – a good shop will be more than happy to find the right budgies for your home (and that includes finding the right gender)! Not to mention that shop owners often have more experience with their budgies, so should easily be able to tell you if you’re after a male or female.

Pros

  • Most straightforward method for all birds (including parrot pals)
  • Comes from a more knowledgeable source
  • Not intrusive or painful for the parakeet

Cons

  • Not always the most accurate!
  • Depends on the knowledge of the owner

Sexing by Personality

As mentioned earlier, there are a couple of differences in how a male or female interacts with each other, with us humans, and in general. For example, head bobbing is one of the most obvious ways to tell each gender apart.

A male parakeet is more likely to enthusiastically bob his head up and down, as well as tap their beaks against their cage or other hard surfaces. Male parakeets are also more likely to be found singing – both alone and to another bird (or human) should the mood take them.

Female parakeets, as mentioned, are much more territorial and assertive – often referred to as being “moody”. Their singing is more likely to be shorter, similar to a barking whistle, while males are more sing-songy.

Of course, just as in humans, individual differences matter. And you may end up with a male parakeet that is grumpier than a female parakeet. What is often seen as the norm doesn’t immediately negate what can be an anomaly.

Pros

  • The least intrusive method
  • More fun for pet parents

Cons

  • Behavior is not a good indicator of gender

The rose-ringed parakeet, also known as the ring-necked parakeet, is a gregarious tropical Afro-Asian parakeet species that has an extremely large range.

DNA Sexing/Feather Sexing

A more accurate way of figuring out whether your bird is female or male is to look to the feathers. DNA sexing – also called feather sexing – is based on a DNA test. This is the most helpful for finding the answer to which sex your baby budgies are, since most young parakeets will have the same colors in their cere.

To do this, you’ll need to pick some of the bird feathers from the bottom of the cage. The feather will then go through a DNA test. Within this DNA test, your male or female parakeet will have their chromosomes looked at – ZZ will indicate that the sex is male, while ZW will prove your bird is female.

This takes more time, but is one of the best ways to tell the gender of your parakeet. It’s handy for those new to bird ownership, who may have accidentally bred some chicks and want to know their sex, for example.

It also means it’s easier for those who are colorblind, since you won’t need to look at the color of the cere to check whether your bird is male or female. In other words, there’s no need to ask around for whether the color of the cere is more blue or violet!

Pros

  • Highly accurate method for understanding you have females or males
  • Not painful for birds – feathers can be easily picked up from the cage

Cons

  • Takes a long time to get results back
  • Can be expensive

Blood Sexing

Blood sexing is arguably the worst option to choose for your bird – but also, sadly, the most accurate way of learning the gender of your parakeet. It runs along the same lines as DNA sexing, This requires owners to either take the bird to their veterinarian for a blood sample, or to pay to do this at home with a kit.

Be warned, however, that this option is less safe – as anything that opens a wound in your bird also opens them up to an increased risk of infection. It can also lead to excess blood loss. Especially if the bird becomes distressed during venipuncture and this leads to cuts or tears around the entry site.

Pros

  • The most accurate method for discovering whether your parakeets are males or females

Cons

  • Painful and sometimes dangerous

Sexing and Nostrils

One of the best ways to check whether your bird is a male or female is to look at its nostrils. This is a much less invasive way of telling whether the gender is male or female and keeps you guilt-free, too! Understanding cere color is also ideal for understanding the general health and wellbeing of your parakeet, so it’s worth knowing this info for any future experience you may have.

The cere is just above the beak, and looks like a fleshy mound. In the cere, you’ll notice the nostrils of your parakeet – but it’s the color around the nostril that we care about, here. The color of the cere can be different, depending on the colors of your bird, as well as the sex. So, these can sometimes change, slightly.

If your birds are male, then this area is most likely going to have a dark blue cere or a purple cere. However, albino birds or those with some genetic mutations, including lutinos may have lighter colors. As such, they may have a light blue cere, or they may keep their juvenile colors and keep a pink or light purple cere.

Females, on the other hand, are most likely to have a brown cere. In some cases, this may be a light blue – such a light blue, in fact, that is could seem to be white in the right light. Don’t worry if your female cere seems to change around the nostrils from time to time.

This could simply mean that she is coming into or out of season. When the ceres on your females change, it is often because of hypertrophy, which comes as a change in the hormones occurs. The color of the cere should still return to brown, however. And if you see any other behavior changes, be sure to contact your vet for more advice, if you’re worried.

Babies are much harder to understand, when it comes to using the cere to tell the gender. This is because young males and females both have a blue cere, which can be a light blue or relatively dark blue, depending on their age. They can also have a purple cere or a pink – but each of these colors are often more muted in the ceres of a young parakeet.

Pros

  • Accurate enough for most bird owners
  • A pain-free method for discovering whether your parakeets are males or females

Cons

  • Males can be more difficult to identify with this method.
  • The cere (above the beak) can have different coloring based on feathers/mutations (including blue and pink)

Why Color Mutations and Genetics Are Interlinked

The simplest answer to this question – without giving you a full biology lesson on genes, dominant and recessive – is that some colors only sit on certain genes. So, in females, they only have the brown cere (a small, fleshy part above the beak, in which the nostrils sit) code written into their DNA and this becomes fully formed as they grow older.

Meanwhile, in males, the same gene responsible for their sex can be interlinked with a dark blue cere. Of course, a parakeet with a genetic mutation, such as those seen in the albino parakeet also have the interlinked cere gene that shows up as pink. For this reason, checking the DNA through the feathers is often the most accurate method of finding out the gender.

FAQs:

Q: Where is the cere on a parakeet?

A: Identifying the cere on your budgie is key to sexing for most parakeet owners. If you’re looking to determine the sex with the cere, then you’ll need to know where to find it, first. The quickest and easiest way to find this, is to look for the nostrils of your bird. The nostrils sit on the cere!

However, if you still aren’t sure, then look just above the beak. The cere is the fleshy part that sits just above the beak – and while the beak itself will almost always be a pale, yellow color, the cere can come in a range of colors. If you’re looking for which color means which sex, then check our guide, above.

Q: Do birds have penises?

A: It’ll come as no surprise that birds are created very differently to us mammals. Thus, birds do not have penises. Instead, what they do have is something called a cloaca – which is a small chamber, that the two birds meet with, in order to discharge sperm and eggs. This effectively removes the need for a penis at all. However, the sperm does still travel up the cloaca, eventually fertilizing an egg, in the same way human sperm travels up the fallopian tube to impregnate the human egg.

Q: At what age can you tell a parakeet’s gender?

A: Both male and female parakeets will begin life with similarly colored ceres. Usually, these are a pale blue, pink or lilac color (think pastels and baby’s nursery colors), and aren’t sexually dimorphic. In other words, their color ceres will not be affected by the sex of the bird. At least, not until they get a little older!

Once your budgie hits 12 months or older, they’re no longer considered a juvenile. As such, your adult parakeets should have matured and their cere will have changed color, depending on their sex. So, you can determine the sex of your parakeet from roughly a year old.

Q: Do parakeets change gender?

A: Given that the ceres of both male and female parakeets change on a continuous basis from a young age, it’s no surprise that this comes up as a frequently asked question. However, neither male or female budgies can change sex as they grow up. Instead, what you are likely seeing is the cere changing color as they grow.

That being said, many people – even a veterinarian – can sometimes mix up the birds when sexing a parakeet. So, it will come as no surprise that many budgies who you thought were one gender, can often turn out to be another as they grow older.

Others can also become confused when their male pair bond and act as a couple, by displaying bonding behavior. If this is the case, just know that it is completely normal for two male birds to create a lasting bromance. So, you may even see them singing to one another, pruning and even feeding one another!

Q: Can two male parakeets live together?

A: As long as they are introduced to one another harmoniously, two male parakeets can indeed live with one another. In fact, two male budgies are more likely to get along than two females. This is because females are frequently more territorial than males, and they may fight over smaller spaces.

With males, however, the pair seem to bond, pair and generally live more peacefully with one another. As mentioned above, they can even develop a little bromance between one another. So, if you have a smaller cage and want to give your male parakeet some company, it’s best to choose a male where possible.

Q: What is a female/male budgie called?

A: Male budgies are called cocks – not dissimilar to the chicken variety! And, following the tone of roosters, the female is called a hen. Of course, it will come as no surprise that the young parakeet is therefore called a chick. So, if someone offers to help you determine whether your parakeets are a cock or a hen, don’t get confused – they’re simply referring to your budgies by their “proper” titles.

Q: Why is my female budgies cere changing color?

A: There’s a couple of reasons as to why your female budgie has changing ceres. The first is that they are currently growing up, before adult females hit one year of age, their cere is a completely different color (check out our basics, given above). As such, your female cere’s color will slowly but surely hit their natural color up until this age.

The second is that your females may be coming into or out of breeding condition. When your female budgie has a cere that reverts to a blue or white, she may be coming out of season. If your female parakeets are also molting, this is most likely the reason why.

The third and final most notable reason as to what your adult females have a changing cere could be that they are ill. If you think this is the case – or if you’re simply not sure if there is a health concern – then call your veterinarian as soon as possible for an appointment. It’s better to ask and nothing be wrong than to not ask and something be wrong!

A freelance writer and word nerd, Wendy is a content writer with a knack for getting into the nitty-gritty of pet ownership. For the past three years, she’s been researching and writing a huge range of different topics – but always comes back to her beloved pet articles. Lover of all things four-legged and owner of Harley, Pepper and Rush, Wendy is currently completing her MNSW at Edge Hill University.

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