Title - Which Sex Is My Adult Budgie?
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Also Covers: - HEALTH WORRIES to do with Ceres

Determining the sex of a budgie is something readers have asked me for help with. It is a little disconcerting not to know whether your pet is male or female. I have also been contacted by people worried about their bird's cere.

With adult budgies of most colours it is easy to tell male and female apart by the colour and texture of the cere which is the bit around the nostrils, above the beak. In the case of red-eyed budgerigars, and some other 'blond' varieties, sexing is more difficult, but always possible.

Hen (female) Budgies
Face of hen budgieFace of hen budgieFace of hen budgieHealthy, adult hens of all colours have a rough or textured cere which is brown or buff in colour. There is a lot of individual variation in the richness of colour and the thickness of the cere, and the colour usually varies over time depending on whether the hen's body is ready to begin nesting, or not.

Cock (male) Budgies
Face of Lutino cock budgieFace of cock budgieFace of cock budgieThe ceres of cock budgies are always smooth, and usually rounder in shape than those of hens. In the case of most colours of cock, they are an attractive blue colour. Individual variation is slight compared to the variation seen in hens' ceres. However, the ceres of albinos, lutinos, other red-eyed varieties and certain pieds (piebald kinds) are a fleshy pink or mauve, like that of the budgie in the far right photo, and give a much less clear message about the owner's sex.

Health and Hen's Ceres
Freshly deposited pigment indicates breeding condition, whereas a cere which is fading out at the edges or looking a bit jaded indicates the opposite. A rich, deep colour is desirable, and its wearer is likely to be highly fertile.

Shelf-like hen's cereHen's cere with 'horns'Some hens' ceres thicken into sort of mini horns at the corners, or stick out like a tiny shelf!! While some people regard this as a problem, (and there is a technical term for it), some hens of mine have worn these extra-thick ceres most of their lives, and have had no trouble with them at all. They do not indicate advanced age -- as some have speculated. PHOTO'S: (upper two) Two healthy hens with thickened ceres; one in her prime, one elderly.

All brown has gone from this hen's cereA hen's fading cereThe ceres of run-down hens can lose all their brown, revealing the white under layer. Even this white may be partly lost, showing the pale blue, base colour. If this happens, enrich the diet daily with hard boiled egg or other good protein, dark greens and a bird vitamin supplement, and have your bird examined by an avian (bird) vet. PHOTO'S: (lower two) Most of the brown has peeled from the cere on the left, while even white is being lost from the cere on the right. -- This really is a hen bird: compare the shape and colour with the cocks' ceres above.

Note: Tatty beak? -- Budgerigars of both sexes can get an infestation called beak mite or scaly face. This causes messy deposits on and around the cere and beak, and can also affect the eyes and feet. Under a magnifier, tiny holes can be seen in the beak -- like miniature woodworm. This condition needs urgent treatment, so once again, take such a bird to the vet.

Health and Cocks' Ceres
Cere of an unhealthy cock'The ceres of cocks with certain health or metabolic problems can become partly or entirely coated with a smooth, brown layer so that the bird looks very much like a hen. However, this brown coat is smooth and very thin. If this happens, check the quality of the diet, and take the bird straight to an avian (bird) vet. PHOTO: sorry this is a bad picture, but this muddy cere is a mess of dirty brown overlaying dull blue. Note its rounded shape, and compare with the hen's ceres above. Tatty beak? -- see the note on beak mite/scaly face in the previous paragraph.

Other Indicators Of Sex
There is a subtle difference in body shape. Cocks tend to be more tapered, and hens less shapely or more blunt ended (to put it in an unflattering way!) Cocks tend to sing more. Hens are the more enthusiastic gnawers -- of anything that will yield to the beak, and may disappear into nest-like places such as your pocket or behind an ornament. Hens have a reputation for biting harder, but budgies are very individual, with a huge range of personality. I am fond of the 'girls' and must stick up for them by pointing out that there are also very gentle hens who would never even think of biting their owner. -- And there are a few cocks who can bite as hard as any hen!

Many thanks to Linda of Falls Church, Virginia, and to Gaby of Birds Online who generously provided extra photo's to illustrate this page.
Generally, © Helen Day; photo's: © whichever of us took them!
First published 2004.

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See Also: How To Tell The Sex Of A Baby Budgie PetStarter
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