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How to Tell the Difference Between a Male Canary & a Hen

By Jane Meggitt

George Doyle/Valueline/Getty Images

Telling the difference between a male and female canary isn't easy, as both genders look about the same. There's one important exception. Males are the songbirds of the canary family, so if your pet trills quite the tune, he's almost certainly a boy.

Color Makes the Man

While most people think of canaries as yellow, that's not true of all the many varieties of this little bird. However, if you're trying to sex the classic yellow canary, the birds with brightest feathering are the males, while the duller yellow specimens are female.

Females Exhibit Nesting Behavior

Sometimes, an individual bird's behavior gives you clues to the gender. If a bird begins gathering materials to build a nest, that strongly suggests your pet is female. Of course, if she lays eggs, there's no more guesswork involved.

Up Close and Personal

Other than DNA sampling, a service available from avian vets, one foolproof way to determine a canary's gender is via visual inspection of the bird's vent. Male canaries have tiny penis-like projections sticking out of the vent. The female lacks this appendage. Her abdomen above the vent appears dome-like and round when she's not in breeding condition, narrowing and evening out when she is ready to breed.

Photo Credits

  • George Doyle/Valueline/Getty Images


Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.