DNA tests are commonly associated with humans and paternity tests and DNA profiles come to mind. However, DNA analysis has now found vast applicability in animals such as horses, dogs and birds. For bird lovers and bird breeders the advent of bird DNA sexing through analysis of their DNA is very revolutionary and has made determining bird sex accurate and simple.

How is bird sexing traditionally done?

Basing oneself on physical traits it is not generally possible to tell the gender of bird. It has often happened that people think they have bought a male bird only to find it has laid an egg. Since sex-defining traits are not apparent, we can try and guess things the old way – the law of attraction; in an aviary, a male bird would be attracted to a female and versa. Of course, this law really does not hold water and is quite unreliable.

You could try another technique- look and wait for the female to lay an egg and use this as ground for your bird-sexing endeavor. If your bird lays an egg then she is female (a female will lay eggs anyway, with or without a male around). All these techniques are not exactly the most accurate and efficient ones and thus, for breeders, bird sexing using DNA is bound to become pretty much the standard means of determining and labeling the gender of your birds.

Avian DNA Sexing: how is it done?

An avian DNA sex test on a bird is carried out using blood. The test is comparatively inexpensive and always conclusive. The amount of blood needed for the test is minimal and can be collected in the following ways:

  • By plucking a feather. DNA is stored in the shaft of the feather. The feather should be plucked close to the skin and from the birds chest (the feather should not be held from the end and of course, never pluck from the wings). Normally any bird feather plucking should be done by professionals or a vet so as to avoid injury to the bird or yourself. Any feathers that have been molted or shed by the bird naturally are not useful.
  • Taking blood usually involves using a bird nail that has been cleaned with ethanol. The nail is cut in such a way that just about cuts the vein. The cut is done a bit further up from the grooming cut line. The drops of blood resulting from the cut can be dabbed on to special paper and left to dry.

Laboratory analysis will test for the Z chromosome or W chromosome in birds to determine their sex. Males will have only Z chromosomes and females will be characterized by ZW chromosome pairs. In birds, it is females not males who determine the sex.

Surgical Bird Sexing

This is another means of determining the gender of your avian friends. The procedure is invasive and must be carried out by a veterinary surgeon. The bird is normally under general anesthetic when the vet inserts an endoscope into the bird to examine its sex organs. The process has the advantage that is a general health test can also be carried out while the endoscope is inside the bird. This type of avian sexing is however, very expensive and can stress the poor bird.

Determining the sex of your bird through bird DNA sexing is highly accurate and has many advantages over all other methods. Many companies offer this type of  DNA test and a quick online search can provide you with some reputable companies.


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