How to Tell If a Bird Is Male or Female
Advanced birders often want to go beyond simply identifying each species of bird they observe. Knowing how to differentiate between males and females requires careful observation and dedication to detailed bird watching.
Although not all species have readily visible gender differences, it is often possible to determine which birds are male or female by appearance or behavior.
Many species of birds are dimorphic or show visible differences between males and females. In most cases, males use brighter, bolder colors as a way to attract mates.
Female birds are generally duller, with less distinctive markings that make it easier for them to blend in with the environment while guarding a nest or protecting young birds.
Gender differences by the appearance
Physical differences between males and females are most apparent during the spring and summer breeding season when brighter colors most effectively attract mates.
Bright colors are also less dangerous in the summer months when colorful birds can still blend in with bright flowers and foliage.
For some species, males change to a more subdued, camouflaged plumage each fall, but update their brighter colors each spring. Examples of clearly dimorphic species include:
- Northern cardinals have bright red males and reddish-brown females of very different colors.
- Many different species of ducks have scandalous male plumages but camouflaged females.
- Painted flags tend to have rainbow-colored males and greenish monochromatic females.
- Many male partridges, quail, and pheasants have unique feathers or other feathers and colors, but females are much more camouflaged.
For some birds, such as Northern Sparklers, the plumage differences between the sexes are much more subtle.
For these woodpeckers, both males and females have barred backs, speckled feathers, and striking black bibs. The males, however, have colored malar stripes, while the females have plain faces.
Other examples of subtle similar plumage differences include:
- Other woodpeckers that show only small differences between males and females, such as the extent of color on the head or face
- Some male hummingbirds have colorful throats, while females have simple throats, although the rest of the plumage may appear similar.
- Species of parrots that have identical plumage, regardless of wax size and color, can be used to determine sex.
Gender differences by behavior
Unfortunately for meticulous observers, many species of birds do not show readily visible differences between males and females.
This is true for species such as gulls, chickadees, chickadees, and many sparrows. However, careful observation of bird behavior can offer clues as to which individuals are of which genus.
Males can migrate before females so they can protect and defend territories. These same male birds are often talented and vocal singers, using their songs to attract mates, as well as to announce their presence and mark their territory for potential competitors.
Females can participate in duets, but they tend to be much calmer, especially during nesting.
During courtship in many species, males feed the females in the same way that they offer food, while females tend to lay freshly laid eggs.
Males may also perform more elaborate dances, poses, or other actions to try to attract females who attend their shows.
Males tend to be more aggressive than females, scaring off intruders or actively participating in fights against other birds or even non-bird predators.
Observing which birds guard the nest and feed the chicks can be another clue to a bird's sex.
In many species, however, both parents take care of the nest and take care of the baby birds, so this may not always be a reliable way to judge the sex of a bird unless it is a bird that takes care of the bird.
We hope you enjoy this video about the differences between male and female birds:
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