Male vs Female Lovebirds: 5 Key Differences
Lovebirds are any of nine living parrot species in the genus Agapornis, all native to Africa, and their many domesticated varieties. Several clues can help tell males and females apart, although some are much more reliable than others. Read on to find out what they are!
1. Color, Shape, and Size Differences
In three species of lovebirds, adult males and females have distinct color differences, a form of sexual dimorphism known as dichromatism. These species and their differences are summarized below.
1. Black-winged lovebird (
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): male has bright red forehead and eye ring.
2. Grey-headed lovebird (
): male has gray head and chest.
3. Red-headed lovebird (
): male has brighter red head and beak.
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In addition, it is often claimed in aviculture that female lovebirds tend to have rounder heads and bigger beaks. However, this is just based on anecdotal evidence.
2. Pelvic Bone
A vet may be able to help sex a lovebird by feeling its pelvic bone during a physical examination.
To accommodate egg-laying, breeding females have a wider pelvic bone. Experienced handlers can learn to feel the differences between the male and female pelvic bones through a physical examination.
3. Mating and Eggs
This pair of wild Fischer’s lovebirds (
) may look alike, but it is the female who is in the nesting cavity incubating eggs.
Other than species with dichromatism, the surest way to tell male and female lovebirds apart is to witness the mating act and see who ends up with eggs! As with most birds, the male will get on top of the female during mating. Females then not only lay the eggs but are the sole incubators as well. Males will bring females food while they are nesting.
Captive lovebirds tend to form strong pair bonds regardless of sex, so don’t assume a bonded pair must be a male and female!
Aviculturalists have noted differences in how male and female lovebirds tend to behave in captivity that are related to their respective roles described above. For example, it is often claimed that female lovebirds more commonly tuck torn-up paper into their feathers to carry back to their nest, whereas male lovebirds more commonly regurgitate food. There are also claims that females tend to be more territorial and aggressive, whereas males are more laid back and affectionate. However, much like people, every bird has its own unique personality, so these are not reliable ways to sex a captive lovebird.
5. DNA Test
Lastly, for the six species that are not dichromatic, often the only reliable way to sex birds before they exhibit breeding behavior is to test their DNA.