If you raise pigeons, you know pigeon gender identification can be challenging especially for young pigeons. There are several techniques that pigeon breeders and avians recommend for identifying pigeon gender. I have discussed all of those techniques in this article.
Male and female pigeons have several physical and behavioral differences. For example, males are slightly greater, more aggressive, and have less distance between vent bones. Paired pigeons are even easier to identify, the males feed the females, and frequently bow and scrap during the mating rituals.
Apparently, any one of these differences is enough to determine the gender but in some pigeons, both genders can have similar physical and behavirol characteristics. In such cases, the best solution is to check all the differences mentioned below to be sure of the pigeon’s gender. Let’s talk about all the differences.
Physical Differences Between Male and Female Pigeons
The head, beak, toes, tail, and vent bones of a pigeon can help determine its gender.
Generally, male pigeons are bigger and heavier than females. The difference is insignificant in baby pigeons.
Males have bigger heads and their heads are slightly flat at the top.
Males usually have broader and shorter beaks as compared to females.
4. Neck and Chest
Since male pigeons coo a lot and puff out their neck feathers, their neck is thicker and their chest is broader.
5. Side Toes
The side toes of male pigeons are almost equal to the front toe but in female pigeons, the side toes are smaller. Don’t be confused with the back toe, it is always smaller than the front toe. Most of the females have thinner toes and legs.
Another way to check your pigeon’s gender is to hold its wings, slightly swing the bird, and see its tail remains straight or goes in the upward position. If its tail goes upward, it is a female, if it remains straight, it is a male.
7. Vent Bones
The vent bones of female pigeons have enough gap to fit in your pinky finger. The males have small or no gap.
8. Vent Edges in Baby Pigeons
According to a research study, the vent edges of females are bigger than males. (1) The females have oval-shaped vent edges, both the upper and the lower edges are expanded out. Whereas males have horseshoe-shaped vent edges, the lower edge is less prominent as the upper edge covers it.
Behavioral Differences Between Male and Female Pigeons
Like physical differences, both genders have some behavioral differences too. You can identify the gender of any pigeon from a distance by just observing its behavior. Let’s discuss all the behavioral differences between males and females
9. Attitude Towards Other Pigeons
Male pigeons are usually aggressive towards other males. Females are usually calm, but they get aggressive only when they feel insecure.
Even if paired, male pigeons are less aggressive towards new females. They chase new females and try to mate with them. Whereas a paired female pigeon does not show interest to other males. This behavior makes it easier to judge the gender of new pigeons.
Place your new pigeon in a cage with a confirmed male pigeon. If the male pigeon chases the new pigeon and dances to attract the pigeon, your new pigeon is probably a female. If the male pigeon shows aggressive behavior, your new pigeon is probably a male.
10. Feeding and Kissing
Male pigeons often feed the females; especially when the pair is near to breeding. The male opens its mouth, regurgitates the feed, and the female inserts its beak inside and takes the feed.
11. Mating Ritual: Bow and Scrapping
During mating rituals, the male chases the female. With its chest pumped up, it frequently bows its head and scrapes tail to attract the female. If the female is interested, it slightly drops its wings and let the male chase it. Before the mating begins, the female bends and the male climbs on the female.
During a mating ritual, only the male coos; the female is less vocal.
12. Egg Incubation
Both male and female pigeons incubate eggs. Females incubate the eggs for most of the day and the males incubate only for a few hours.
The DNA test is performed by analyzing the pigeon’s feather, toenail, or blood sample. The process is a bit expensive and time-consuming but it is the most accurate and reliable method of pigeon sexing. DNA testing costs $19-23 in the USA. (2)
Incorrect Methods of Pigeon Gender Identification
There are some pigeon gender identification techniques that are commonly practiced but they do not work. Interestingly, these techniques have no scientific background and yet they are often portrayed as scientific methods.
Flip and Grip in Hand
It is believed, that placing a pigeon upside down on your palm with its head under its body reveals its gender. If it immediately jumps and stands, it is a male, if it stays in the same position, it is a female. I tested this technique on almost 15 pigeons of known gender and found this method worked on only 9 pigeons.
Some pigeon keepers believe that pigeons can be sexed with the help of a pendulum; which is impossible. The process involves testing a pendulum’s movement around the pigeon’s head. If the pendulum swings in a circular path, it’s a female, and if moves to and fro, it’s a male. I did test this method too and found it shows different results on the same bird. The pendulum’s movement has nothing to do with the bird’s head, it is your hand controlling the pendulum’s motion.
Although some pigeon keepers endorse pendulum sexing, it does not work and there is no scientific evidence of its authenticity.
For experienced pigeon keepers, the easiest way to identify the gender of a pigeon is by checking the gap between its vent bones. Moreover, its behavior towards other pigeons (of known gender) is also another quick way. However, DNA testing is the most reliable but it is slightly expensive.
Bilal is a freelance writer and a content creator. He has been in the pigeon hobby for over 15 years. Over the years, he has worked on various fancy pigeon breeds and explored their history.