Gender Preference

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Q: I keep hearing that female parrots have a tendency to like men and that male parrots seem to have a greater liking for women. Is this true? If so, is it a good way to guess the sex of a bird before buying it? If this is not true, then why do so many people believe it?

A: This is absolutely false. Using this as a determining factor in guessing the sex of a potential addition to your aviaries offers no better odds than flipping a coin. Birds have absolutely no ideas about human gender. Ignoring feathers, parrots have no external physiological features that they are keyed to in order to determine the sex of other parrots. Therefore, it would be logical to assume that they would not understand these differences in humans. What they are keyed into is the color and the shape of plumage. I’m sure that everyone is familiar with the human silhouettes that are painted on restroom doors. Humans present themselves in two distinct forms with variation in between. It is the individual bird’s experience with these different forms that may lead to prejudice against one form or another. Parrots, just like people, are very individualistic when it comes to their propensity to acquire prejudice. Some will never show this tendency, yet others will form them with only the slightest motivation. If a parrot does not like how it has been treated by one form of human, it can adopt a lifelong distrust for all other humans of similar form. This is form recognition, not gender preference.

One of the reasons that this belief is reinforced is because the odds dictate that 50 percent of the time (as in flipping a coin), it will be true. Many of us tend to have a clearer memory of the times that our pet theories prove true as opposed to the times they prove false. This misconception is nothing new. Twenty-five years ago, I heard the same from two homes that assured me that their birds were males. They were convinced because the birds hated all the men in the house and loved all the women. Both of the families were very “straight-laced,” in that all the men had short hair and wore shirts and slacks, and the women all had long hair and wore dresses or skirts. When these birds were exposed to my college friends, all gender recognition ended. All of us, regardless of gender, wore blue jeans, Tshirts and long hair. We were all judged by the birds on an individual basis without prior prejudice–except for one of our female friends. She had recently gotten a very short, close haircut and was the only one to get a nasty bite when she approached the bird.