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How can you tell the difference between a female and male bird?

It depends on the kind of bird. Cardinals and gold finches are easy to tell apart because the boys are very bright and the females have much duller colors. In other birds, such as male and female sparrows, they look the same! If you are wondering about specific birds, you can go to the library and find a bird field guide to help you figure out if you are looking at a boy or girl, or if it is a species that is hard to tell apart!

Grace Fields


One rule of thumb about dimorphism (male and female have different appearances) is that if the two species are different in coloration with the male standing out in some way, then the male does not share the chore of sitting on the nest; he would attract predators. Females are usually camouflaged for this reason. If they are the same in appearance, then both sexes take turns on the nest.

Bright coloration in males tends to indicate that they are aggressive with nesting territories and will keep members of their same species away from their declared territory. Other males are less aggressive.

Steve Sample

It varies greatly from species to species. Male and female blue jays, for example, are almost identical, you might be able to tell them apart by careful observation of behavior. Many birds have some difference in color between sexes, and others, like many of the ducks, are dramatically different. Field guides will show the differences. Many raptors (hawks, falcons, and relatives) are different in both plumage and size, females are usually larger. Immature birds are often quite different in appearance from adults and it may be harder to tell males and females apart.

J. Elliott

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