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Knowing your bird's correct gender is important if you intend to breed and can be helpful when trying to determine possible causes of illness. While each species is different, adults of many varieties of birds can be easily sexed visually and, if this is the case, when you bring your bird in for its first examination the avian veterinarian examining your bird can advise you as to gender.
With some species or mutations genders can look identical or very similar and other means of sex determination are needed. Sex determination by DNA (also called PCR) testing is currently the safest method available. It can be carried out on a drop of blood or on a feather. The sample is sent to a specialised laboratory offering the test. Accuracy is over 98%
Sex determination can also be done by endoscopic surgical sexing. With this procedure the bird is anaesthetised and an small endoscope (like ones that doctors use to look into knee joints) is inserted into the left abdomen so that the bird's ovary or testicle can be visualised. This procedure carries a degree of risk compared with DNA sexing because the bird has to be anaesthetised and, in rare cases, bleeding may occur, but it allows the vet to examine the ovary or testicle directly and see if there are any abnormalities. Occasionally sex cannot be determined e.g. because there is bleeding or for other technical difficulties, but generally the procedure is quick, accurate and results are available on the spot.