Q: I have a pair of red-headed parrot finches that fledged four babies a few months ago. Now they look exactly like the parents. How can I tell if they are male or female?
A: Red-headed parrot finches can be very difficult to sex visually but some visual clues exist.
Parrot finches are hard to sex by song when they are in groups, because they sing with their beaks closed and are usually in constant motion. One method for helping sex them is to separate your birds one at a time in a cage that can be moved out of view of the rest of the birds.
Male parrot finches usually begin to sing (trill) loudly when set apart from their cagemates. Because of the closed-beak singing, rely on your ears more than your eyes to make your determinations.
Reaction to nesting material seems to be a gender-indicator for this species. Even immature males often show a strong reaction to the presence of shredded burlap or similar items. All parrot finches are curious and quick to investigate anything new in their environment. Normally, only males will be interested enough to pick up some material to carry around the cage. Young hens often poke at it but usually won? pick up or carry any material.
DNA-sexing is more available and less expensive than ever before, and it is ultimately the best and most reliable way to sex birds. The average cost per sample is about $25, and results can be had in as few as two days. For some tests, blood samples are no longer needed and tests can be performed using a few breast feathers.
One of the advantages of DNA testing is that parrot finches have a short but intense reproductive life, and DNA sexing helps prevent wasted effort with same-sex birds. Parrot finches may live 10 or more years, but they usually only breed for a few years. If the birds are to be sold, the cost of sexing can be added to the price, and serious breeders are usually happy to pay it.