Avian Expert Articles

Spotlight on Female Parrots

Girl Power!

CockatielHenFemale birds tend to fly under the radar, so to speak, when compared to their flashier male counterparts. In many bird species, including parrots, the males have the more eye-catching colors — how many times have you read a bird species profile that describes the female’s feather coloring as a duller or muted version of the male’s? In parrots, the male is also the likelier of the two sexes to mimic speech. When you see a list of the top talkers among companion parrots, it is more often than not a reference to the males of the species. (The opposite of us humans, you might say!) It’s time to give our feathered girls time in the spotlight.

Let’s Hang Out

The females of many parrot species have a reputation for being the cuddlier of the two sexes, compared to their louder, more boisterous male counterparts. Cockatiels are a good example. You likely won’t see your female cockatiel banging her beak loudly against her toy or strutting and whistling in front of a mirror like a male cockatiel is particularly prone to do. No; she is more inclined to chirp for your attention — not in the loud male cockatiel shriek, but with a softer contact call. And she’s probably more content spending time on you rather than doing the male cockatiel’s hops and whistle serenades.

Amazon parrots, which are among the top talkers, also have a noticeable gender divide. Some male Amazon species — especially double yellowheads, blue fronts and yellow napes, can become territorial and aggressive during breeding season. Females of these species, on the other hand, might be more broody than aggressive during spring. “Broody,” in fact, is a bird-inspired term: it describes the behavioral tendency of a female bird to sit on a clutch of eggs in order to incubate them. A broody bird might pluck the feathers on her chest and abdomen and use them to cover her eggs. As part of this nesting behavior, she might also seek out dark, covered areas around the home in search of the perfect spot to nest. (Can’t find your cockatiel hen? Check in the cupboard or under the sofa! She’s scoping out potential nest sites, even if there is no male cockatiel in the house.)

Interestingly, women are also known to display a type of “nesting behavior.” As their pregnancy due date approaches, many pregnant women have a sudden and seemingly inexplicable need to de-clutter the home, spring-cleaning style … which is endearingly referred to in pregnancy books as “nesting.”

That’s not to say that, depending on the time of the year, female parrots are either pushovers or moody and broody. “Hen pecked” is another bird-inspired term. (Well, it’s a attributed to chickens, which can even peck each other to death!) For some parrot species, the hen does rule the roost when housed with males, and she can be quite consistent in her hen-pecking ways. Some female parrots fit the “hen pecker” moniker better than others. Female parakeets (budgies), for one, can be downright bossy.Female budgies can get into intense bickering matches, while males usually are better at getting along. Similarly, female Eclectus have a reputation for being assertive and bossy toward their mates, while males of the species are more often described as being more timid and reserved.

Duller Color, Doesn’t Mean Duller Personality

The majority of parrots are not sexually dimorphic, meaning that it is difficult to tell the sexes apart simply by looking at them. Some parrots, however, are sexually dimorphic and it’s usually the male that has the more vibrant colors. The Eclectus parrot is the exception to this color-coded rule. Female Eclectus are mostly vibrant red, while male Eclectus have a rich green coloring. With such a contrast in colors, you can’t really say that one is more colorful than the other. But if you were to look at a normal gray cockatiel male and female pair, you’d soon notice that one has brighter orange cheek patches and a richer gray coloring than the other. The first would be the male and the latter would be the female. Same with Indian ringnecks; males have the colored ring around the neck, while females lack this extra “feather color accessory.” (The playing field is even, however, when it comes to color mutations, that is, birds that are bred to bring out certain color characteristics. Once you start getting away from the bird’s natural coloring, the obvious differences in feather color becomes less distinguishable.)

Because of their less vibrant color, female parrots might literally be passed by — and passed up — when it comes to choosing a pet bird. This is unfortunate because the females of many parrot species tend to have endearing and gentle personalities. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule — you might very well meet a boisterous female or a quiet and docile male.

Do you share your life with a female parrot? Have you noticed a difference between male and female companion parrots? Do tell!

3 thoughts on “Spotlight on Female Parrots

  1. I have a female pastel face cinnamon cockatiel that is almost a year old and she is a special needs bird. she has a cleft palate. which is a split in her bottom beak. she was born that way. I was just wandering if you had any information on special needs bird or where I could find some information about it. she is so fun and is very vocal with us at all time. Thank you in advance about the information that I can get to help me keep her healthy and happy.

  2. I have two male caiques: Woof, the white belly, is 2 months older and about an inch taller than Meow, the black-headed, who arrived in our house two months after Woof. Initially, Woof was more dominant and Meow was happy to play the baby and even ran to Woof for help any time he felt threatened. By the time two or three years had passed, things had swung the other. Meow became the dominant one and Woof the gentler guy (but he didn’t run to Meow for help). Now they are about to turn 16 and things have evened out. Depending on the situation, one is sometimes more dominant than the other, but neither one is always that way. I guess my point is that various behaviors and tendencies are not set in stone. Things can change and change again and again over time.

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