How to Tell if Your Canary is Male or Female

  • Date: December 5, 2021
  • Time to read: 4 min.

Some animals aren’t quite as straightforward about communicating their gender to you. Mammals make it easy, but birds often do not. If you have a pet Canary, you may be wondering how to tell which gender it is. Thankfully, there are several ways to do this, though some are more complicated than others.

To tell the gender of your Canary, you can use lab DNA testing, attempt to identify physical and behavioral characteristics, have them assessed by a veterinarian, or check their reproductive organs after they have reached sexual maturity.

As for why the gender of your Canary matters, it’s relevant if you have more than one Canary, and you don’t want them to mate and place a bunch of baby birds in your lap without your knowledge. We’ll explain these various identification methods down below.

Using DNA Testing

You can’t really get any more accurate than DNA testing at a lab. If you are so concerned about your Canary’s gender that you want the smallest margin of error in identifying it as you can possibly manage, DNA testing is the way to go.

Testing kits can be found online or through avian veterinarians in some cases. It’s best to find a local lab near you, as it is illegal in some states to send blood or feathers through the mail, and you’ll need one or the other for DNA testing.

When you get a kit and choose a lab, make sure you follow its instructions very carefully, as different labs have different requirements. Some can use feathers, but need a certain length, while others may need blood. If the Canary recently hatched, its eggshell can be used in some cases.

Do not accidentally pick a blood feather, as this could cause the bird to bleed to death. If you need to get a blood sample, we recommend making a vet appointment to take care of that rather than doing it yourself. DNA testing is as accurate as you can get, but there are plenty of other, easier ways to identify your Canary’s gender.

Using Physical Characteristics

The drawback of using physical characteristics to identify your Canary is that you will often have to wait for them to reach sexual maturity before you can do so. It usually takes about a year for this to happen. Once your Canary is sexually mature, you can note physical differences between males and females.

First off, many people know that male birds tend to have brighter plumage than female ones. This is true for Canaries as well. If you have several birds, you can often look at the brightness of their feathers to get an idea of who is what gender. However, this is by no means a guaranteed method and shouldn’t be used as your sole evidence of gender.

A much more accurate way to identify your Canary is to examine its reproductive organs. Unlike mammals, many birds only have noticeably different genitals during the breeding season, rather than year-round. This means you will only be able to notice a major difference in Canary reproductive organs during the summer.

During this time, female Canaries will have a flat vent, and the male Canaries will have an enlarged, protruding one. The best way to get a look at this area is to hold the bird upside down and gently blow at the feathers near its legs, exposing its reproductive organs enough for you to see.

Using Behavioral Differences

We don’t recommend using behavioral differences as your sole means of identifying a Canary’s gender, because the way a bird acts can be affected by many factors besides gender. Still, it’s something to take into consideration if you are trying to identify what gender your Canary is.

For instance, male Canaries sing much louder and longer than the female Canaries do. However, female Canaries still sing, so there is room for confusion if you don’t know how to tell the difference between their songs.

On the other hand, female Canaries are the ones that exhibit nesting behavior. If you notice your Canary is spending a lot of its time building a nest in one part of its cage, it is likely a female, as it is preparing for the possibility of laying eggs.

It can be a good idea to include nesting materials in your bird’s cage, such as tiny pieces of fabric, hay, or tissue paper. That way, your female Canary can easily engage in nesting behavior, making it easier for you to identify them at that time.

Naturally, if you see a Canary lay an egg, it is female. But if you have more than one Canary and you didn’t actually see it happen, this doesn’t help you much, as Canaries of either gender will pay close attention to laid eggs.

Getting a Veterinarian Assessment

Vets are animal experts and far more likely to have the right knowledge, training, and tools to easily identify a Canary’s gender than your Average Joe. For instance, they can use ultrasound to identify a Canary’s gender since that allows them to see the bird’s internal sex organs.

This is arguably one of the simplest and easiest ways to find out the gender of your Canary, but at the same time, it’s probably one of the most expensive. For that reason, you should carefully assess whether or not you really need that information badly enough to pay a significant sum for it.

For instance, if you have just one pet Canary, there is no risk of it mating regardless of its gender, so finding out what gender it is doesn’t matter that much unless you want to know for personal reasons. Of course, there’s always the possibility of your lone Canary getting out of the house and mating with a wild one, but you’ve got a different problem at that point.

Regardless of why you want to know your Canary’s gender, there are plenty of ways to go about it. Just pick the one that is best for you.

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