Guest Author - Melissa McIntyre
Lovebirds are “monomorphic”- this means both male and the female lovebirds look the same. The only way to be sure of your lovebird’s gender is by DNA testing; a simple blood test that can be done by your avian veterinarian. However, there are a few appearance and behaviour hints that can suggest that your lovebird is either male or female. Most of these are only applicable to fully adult birds, which for lovebirds may be between one or two years, and some females may not show breeding behaviour for three or four years.
Physical differences between genders are slight and they are easiest to spot if you have a bird of both sexes to compare, or if you have a lot of experience with many lovebirds. Female lovebirds tend to be a little shorter than males, but are also broader, and often weigh more. Fully adult females may look a little “chesty” compared to their slimmer mates. Male lovebirds will often have the larger head and beak, though. Males may stand more narrowly on the perch, with their feet fairly close together, while females take a broader stance.
Experienced breeders or lovebird keepers may have a good idea what gender your lovebird is by feeling the pelvic bones- carefully! Male pelvic bones are narrower, sometimes almost touching, and are not very “flexible”. Female pelvic bones are fairly wide apart and they can “give” somewhat. Please have someone with experience do this test for you if you have not been shown how to do it, as it is possible to break the tiny bones if you do it incorrectly.
Female peach faced lovebirds in breeding mode will tuck long strips of paper in their rump feathers, and sometimes under their wings, to bring back to the nest. Males may attempt this but they aren’t very good at it, and the strips often fall out. Females are also super-shredders. If you have a hormonal female, she is probably gong to be shredding everything she can get her beak on into long, thin strips. A breeding male may tryto do the same, but like the paper-tucking, they never really seem to get the hang of it. Their strips are usually shorter, crooked, or tattered, and they tend to lose interest before their female counterparts.
If your lovebird lays eggs, she is absolutely a female. However, just because your bird does not lay eggs doesn’t mean your bird is a male. While most female lovebirds will lay at least one egg before five years old, not all do.
Both male and female lovebirds may masturbate in a variety of positions, so this is not a very good way to tell gender. Lovebirds may also pair up with same-sex birds (male-male or female-female), so just because you have a bonded pair does not mean you have a male and a female. Same-sex pairs is even go through mating and nesting, though with a male-male pair there will be no eggs, and with a female-female pair, you may get twice as many, but no chicks. If your pair does produce chicks, then you have what’s called a “true pair”- a male and a female. If you happen to see them mating, you can be fairly sure the bird on top is the male; however, female lovebirds are very bossy partners, and a particularly demanding female may take the “top position” from time to time.
Female lovebirds, in general, are the more aggressive and territorial of the pair. The males are just a little sweeter, and may be a little shyer. However, these are generalizations and there are certainly sweet females and aggressive males. In a true pair, the female is almost always the more bossy of the two. Though no lovebird makes a truly excellent talker, female lovebirds tend to make better talkers than males. The author has met four or five female lovebirds that talked, but only one male, and the females were much clearer with larger vocabularies.
So if you have a thin bird with a narrow stance, a narrow pelvis, with a fairly substantial head and beak, who tends to be somewhat of a failure the nesting department, and tends to give in to his partner’s demands, you may be fairly sure you have a male- possibly up to 80% sure. If your bird is stout and looks pretty broad, with a wide perching stance, a smallish head and beak, is a nest-building machine, and is somewhat bossy and pushy, you probably have a female.
Remember, these methods work best if you see more then one trait in your bird. The best way, and the only way to be 99.998% sure what you have, is by DNA testing.