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Male or Female Parrotlet? How to Identify the Differences

Nicole Cosgrove

Parrotlets are adorable little birds. They are the smallest of parrot species commonly kept as pets. The parrotlet is active and friendly, but not as loud as many other parrots, making them a good choice for people who live in apartments.

If you didn’t get your parrotlet from a breeder who performed testing to determine the sex, you might be unaware of whether you have a male or female bird. Don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to tell the sex of your parrotlet.

Keep reading to learn how to identify if your parrotlet is a male or female.

divider-birdWhy Should You Determine If Your Bird is Male or Female?

Both males and female parrotlets are similar in temperament. However, as a bird owner, you might be curious about whether or not your pet is a boy or a girl.

You may also be considering adding a second parrotlet to your family. If this is the case, you’ll definitely need to know the sex of your bird as they are best kept in opposite-sexed pairs.

If you plan to add a second parrotlet of the opposite sex to your family, you’ll also need to be prepared for mating season and breeding.

Yellow-Faced Parrotlet Side view_Agami Photo Agency_Shutterstock
Image credit: Agami Photo Agency, Shutterstock

Anatomy of a Parrotlet

You can identify the sex of many pets by looking at the genital areas. However, birds have internal genitalia. Both male and female parrotlets have a cloaca. This is an internal chamber that houses the bird’s sex organs. You won’t be able to tell which organs a bird has simply by looking at them. A veterinarian would need to examine the parrotlet to determine the sex.

Two Yellow-Faced Parrotlet on the branch of the tree_DejaVuDesigns_Shutterstock
Image Credit: DejaVu Designs, Shutterstock

divider-birdsPhysical Characteristics

There are some physical characteristics that you can look for to discern whether your parrotlet is a male or female. These typically include different-colored feathers in specific locations on the parrotlet’s body. The two parrotlet species most commonly kept as pets display different colors and markings between sexes. These include:

Pacific parrotlet

parrotlet on grass
Image Credit: Chelsea Sampson, Shutterstock

The typical Pacific parrotlet is green with a few differences between males and females. There are some color mutations of Pacific parrotlets that can change the base or highlight feather colors, making it more difficult to distinguish between the sexes.

Male Parrotlet
  • Bright green feathers
  • Dark blue stripe behind their eyes
  • Dark blue feathers on backs and wings
Female Parrotlet
  • Dark green feathers on their backs and wings
  • Light green feathers on the face

Green-rumped parrotlet

Parrotlet perched on a wire
Image Credit: Rafael Martos Martins, Shutterstock

The green-rumped parrotlet also displays different feather color patterns between males and females.

Male Parrotlet
  • Bright green body feathers
  • Dark blue outer wing feathers
  • Turquoise inner wing feathers
Female Parrotlet
  • Bright green body feathers
  • Yellow feather patch between their eyes
  • Yellow feathers above their beaks

divider-birdcageMethods of Testing

If you are having a difficult time determining the sex of your parrotlet just by its feather colors and markings, don’t worry! There are other ways to determine if you have a male or female bird.

Egg Laying

If your parrotlet lays eggs, then you know that you have a female bird. This may seem obvious, but some bird owners are not aware that a female parrotlet who is kept alone can still lay eggs. The eggs aren’t fertilized and won’t hatch.

However, egg-laying is not a foolproof method of sex determination in parrotlets. Females won’t lay eggs until after they are at least 3 years old. Sometimes they won’t lay eggs at all. So, while this is a possible method of testing whether you have a female or male bird, it’s not the most reliable way.

Parrotlet Nesting_Bussakorn Ewesakul_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Bussakorn Ewesakul_Shutterstock

DNA Testing

Most breeders will perform DNA testing before selling birds so that the new owner will know the sex of their pet. However, this isn’t always the case. You may need to pay for DNA testing on your bird if it was not determined by the breeder.

The good news is the testing is often inexpensive and it’s pretty reliable. Your veterinarian can collect a blood sample from your bird and send it to a laboratory for testing. If your veterinarian does not perform DNA testing, you can also send in a nail or feather clipping to a laboratory on your own.

There are some cases where lab results could be inaccurate, although this is rare.

Surgical Testing

This method should only be used as an absolute last resort and only if necessary. It requires your bird to be put under anesthesia before an incision is made in the abdomen. The veterinarian will be able to view the reproductive organs and tell you if the bird is a male or female.

This can be dangerous for your bird and may give younger birds long-lasting reproductive problems. It’s also very stressful for the parrotlet.

 divider-birdFinal Thoughts

There are several ways to determine the sex of your parrotlet. If you have one of the two common pet species, a survey of its marking and feather colors should give you an answer.

For other species, egg-laying is a sure sign that you have a female, although not all females will lay eggs. DNA testing is the most reliable and least intrusive option for most bird owners, while surgery should only be used in necessary situations.

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Featured Image Credit: Cynoclub, Shutterstock

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.