Thursday, June 17, 2010

Question on Sexing Bourkes

Question from Reader in South Australia:  "... I currently have a Rosa Bourke called Icarus. However, I am not 100% sure whether Icky is in fact a boy or a girl? When I bought him I was initially told it was a girl, and then on closer examination the seller told me it was a boy. I'm just wondering if there is a reasonably clear way to sex them? I've heard all different ideas regarding sexing them (colour of faces, the way they respond to your low whistling, etc.) - but the main thing people say is that they are hard to sex..."

If you will click on the label below called "Sexing," it will open previous posts for you on this topic.

Avian veterinarians can look internally and sex birds, but Bourkes are small and I wouldn't want to have that done to mine (besides the expense). The books say that females have flatter heads and sometimes darker faces. I've not found this to be a successful way to sex them. Instead, behavior is the very best identifier.

Males sing a lot and wolf whistle, especially in the spring and more often when they are single. Males with a hen are less likely to "call" for one. However, they may sing more than she does. Also, her song is less lengthy. Males behave differently too. At about three or more months of age the males typically begin a "display" behavior. They "strut" more than a female (who doesn't); they flair their wings at the shoulders at other birds ... flaring at females to entice them and at other males to intimidate them. Males also want to feed other birds. If no hen is present, the dominant male will try to feed the less dominant one. Hens don't feed a male (an exception to this is if their eggs did not hatch and they want to feed something. For a short time they may try to "re-feed" the male after he's fed them, just as they would have fed the babies that should have hatched but didn't ... kind of sad).

Because I've been around these birds, it's easy for me to recognize the difference in behavior at an early age. I realize it will to be harder for anyone who hasn't had several to compare with each other. When I first started breeding Bourkes, I made several mistakes on judging their sex. Now, not so much...the behavior is obvious to me. I hope this helps somewhat... Click on the tag for "Sexing" below for more information.

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