How to Tell the Difference Between a Male & Female Sun Conure

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Sun conures are enjoyable, interactive and colourful pet parrots. The bird's bright plumage and ability to talk makes it one of the most popular conure types owned by bird enthusiasts. Sun conures are monomorphic birds, meaning the males and females look nearly identical in shape and colour. If you want to breed sun conures, it is essential to identify males and females to create matched, fertile pairs.

Check the amount of red on a young sun conure's head. While male and female sun conures look nearly identical, experienced breeders can sometimes tell the sexes apart when the birds first acquire their feathers. At eight weeks, all the feathers have grown in on the young sun conure. The male has less red on his face and head than the female. The female often appears to have brighter red shades around her face. When the sun conure is around four to six months old, the male will usually get more red around the face and neck. The amount of red on the female's face will remain the same. This method of sexing is not foolproof and requires that you have several young birds to compare and contrast. If you own only one bird and it is older, this method of sex identification will not work.

Observe your bird closely for key behaviours. Female sun conures tend to be more social and agreeable to handling. Some bird owners would call them "cuddly." The females tend to be quieter than males as well, even though the sun conure species is known for its loud screeches and calls. Male conures can be territorial in their cages and possessive of people they like. This method of sex identification is useful only if you have familiarity with sun conures and have more than one bird so you can compare their behaviour.

Watch to see whether your bird lays an egg. Even if your bird is not part of a matched pair, female birds will sometimes lay infertile eggs on their own. If your bird lays an egg, whether it is fertile or infertile, your sun conure is definitely a female. Sun conures breed easily in captivity and become fertile around 2 years old. Sometimes only the female will lay on the eggs, but in other sun conure pairs both the male and female will incubate the eggs.

Examine your bird's internal sex organs. This method is called surgical sexing. An avian veterinarian will put the parrot under anaesthesia and make a small incision on its left side. A probe and light is inserted into the body cavity so the veterinarian can examine the bird's organs. If he sees an ovary, the sun conure is a female. Birds have only one functional ovary and it is on the left side. If the bird instead has an internal testicle, it is a male. There is some risk with this procedure because of complications from anaesthesia and the possibility of the incision becoming infected.

Use a DNA sample to determine your bird's sex. This is the most common method nowadays to determine whether a monomorphic bird is male or female. Less invasive and stressful than surgical methods, the bird's sex is determined in a laboratory after examining its DNA. The DNA sample is obtained from your bird's blood, feathers or egg shell. The blood sample is collected by simply clipping the bird's toenail into the quick and placing a few drops of blood on a test card. Feathers must be freshly plucked from the bird's breast to get a usable DNA sample. If you do not feel comfortable with either of these methods, a professional bird groomer can help you collect the samples. The DNA samples are mailed to the avian laboratory along with a fee, and a determination of male or female is made after the technician analyses the sex chromosomes. Results are mailed or e-mailed to the bird owner. This is the most accurate method of determining your sun conure's sex.

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