While DNA or surgical sexing are the only guaranteed ways of determining your bird’s sex with certainty, well, that and finding an egg in the pellet bowl, there are a few parrots that allow us to make an educated guess visually.
In the cockatoo family, it’s in the eyes. The females typically have a lighter, chestnut color to their eyes, which is most easily seen in strong light. The male’s eyes are a very dark brown, nearly black. Additionally in the male galah, or rose breasted cockatoo, the eyes rings become rough in texture and tinged with pink (although this is not the case with some males who do not get enough exposure to sunlight.)
The male standard cockatiel will have a bright yellow head, with clearly defined orange cheek patches, while the female’s head coloring is less distinct. She will also have barring marking the underside of her long tail.
In the budgie, the male typically has a light purple colored cere (the area around the nostrils), and the female’s is shades of pink to brown.
I had heard several years ago about a method of visually sexing African greys, but I had for one reason or another thought it to be too unreliable because of the way feather color varies in that species. I had actually snooped under the tail feathers of several greys of unknown gender and never found those tell-tale silver tipped feathers. I suppose it is possible that all of them were male.
Someone sent me this link recently, and as I have questioned my friends with female greys, most have reported that theirs have this feather coloring. I feel that it is a fairly safe bet that if your has these feathers, it is likely a female. If it doesn’t, I think the bird should still be considered of unknown gender.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.