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Male or Female Cockatoo? How to Identify the Differences

Nicole Cosgrove

If you’ve been considering purchasing a cockatoo from a reputable breeder, then you’ve probably already done your research and know that these very sociable birds can be a handful to take care of.

On top of that, you might be wondering whether you want to purchase a male or a female cockatoo as a family pet. Have you ever wondered how to spot the difference between male and female cockatoos? Unfortunately, the male and the female of all the cockatoo species look remarkably alike, so it can be hard to determine which is which when you’re looking to purchase one.

In this guide, we’ll tell you how to identify the differences between the two so you can make the right choice for your next pet.

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Check Out the Eyes

As previously stated, male and female cockatoos look very similar. There are, however, some slight differences you can look for to determine which sex you’re purchasing. One of these slight differences is in their eye color.

As they grow, some species of cockatoos will change eye colors, depending on their sex. This is different according to each cockatoo species. For example, a Major Mitchell’s cockatoo male will have dark brown eyes, while the female will develop pinkish-red eyes as she matures.

Of course, if you’re going to use this method to determine the sex of your Cockatoo, then you’ll have to wait until they mature.

major mitchell's cockatoo
A Major Mitchell’s cockatoo | Image credit: slowmotiongli, Shutterstock

Check Out the Beaks and Feathers

The beaks and feathers of the cockatoo can help you determine the sex as well, but again, these results vary according to the species you’re purchasing. For example, a black male cockatoo will be easy to tell because he’ll have a black beak. The females, however, will be white or horn-colored. The male of this species is a little smaller and has brown feathers on his head.

Each species of cockatoo will have slight differences in their beaks and feathers, so you can tell their gender, but again, these don’t present until they’ve matured.

red-tail black cockatoos_Terri Sharp_Pixabay
Red-Tail Black Cockatoos | Image Credit: Terri Sharp, Pixabay

Watch Their Behavior Patterns

Another way you might be able to determine the gender of a cockatoo is by keeping an eye on their behavior patterns. First, however, it is important to note that the male and female do exhibit many of the same behaviors. For example, in most cases, as the male of the species approaches adulthood, he’ll start trying to mate with people and other objects.

The female, of course, is the only one that can lay eggs, although both the male and female will start incubating the eggs once they are laid. These behaviors will likely be a good giveaway of gender, but they won’t be revealed until the birds have reached sexual maturity.

two cockatoos on grass
Male and female cockatoos | Image Credit: Beverly Buckley, Pixabay

Have a DNA Test Performed

Since most species of cockatoo only have very small differences to alert you to their gender, and because those differences can’t be identified until they start to mature, it is possible to tell through DNA testing. It’s pretty simple to do. Pluck a few feathers from the Cockatoos chest and send them off for testing. This type of DNA testing is much simpler and a whole lot safer than having surgery done to determine the gender of your cockatoo.

These are just a few of the ways that you can determine the gender of your Cockatoo. If you’re not willing to wait until they are older to determine their sex, DNA testing is an option you might want to consider.


Featured Image Credit: Squirrel_photos, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.