With titles like, "A Case of Complete Sex-Reversal in the Adult Pigeon" or "Sex Reversal in a Pigeon," appearing in academic biological journals, it is not surprising that many pigeon owners find it supremely difficult to know their bird's sex. Although sex reversal in pigeons is rare, it does hint at the extremely subtle differences in the sex of these birds. However, there are a few behavioural clues and feather markings that can help you determine the sex of your pigeon.
- Skill level:
Measure your pigeons to determine their sex. Males, or cocks, tend to be larger and more powerful than females, also known as hens. A more definitive indication may be the size of the pigeon's cloaca, or vent. The vent is a posterior opening that a bird uses to urinate, defecate and copulate. Male pigeons tend to have narrower vents than females.
Listen to your pigeons coo. A cock will tend to coo longer than a hen.
Watch for signs of submission. Many cocks strut and coo around females. In response, a hen will drag her tail and approach the male. Additionally, males tend to bow to females.
Observe what time of day your pigeons sit on their eggs. Hens will tend to their eggs for most of the day, but males tend to sit on their eggs in midmorning and afternoon.
Consult a bird guide to determine if your particular variety of pigeon has identifying feather colours to indicate if they are male or female in sex. For instance, biologists are able to determine the sex of band-tailed pigeons by checking the colour or breast feathers in these birds. Males have purple breast feathers, whereas females are dull brown to grey in colour.
Tips and warnings
- None of these signs are definitive indicators of sex. Use these indicators in combination to be confident in your determination.
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- "American Naturalist"; A Case of Complete Sex-Reversal in the Adult Pigeon; Oscar Riddle; 1924
- "Proceeding of the Royal Society of London"; Sex-Reversal in a Pigeon (Columbian Livia); F.W. Rogers Brambell and G.F. Marrian; 1929
- Arizona Pigeon Club Guide: Pigeon Ponderings
- Stromber's: General Pigeon Information for Beginners
- "Journal of Wildlife Management"; Age and Sex Determination of Juvenile Band-Tailed Pigeons; J. Allen White and Clait E. Braun; 1968