Bruce Explains Box Turtles: Boy Versus Girl

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One of the first tasks I faced after I rescued Bruce and he joined our little flock was to figure out if he was a girl box turtle or a boy box turtle.

This was an especially pressing issue, since my 17-year-old parrot, Pearl, had spent a whopping 11 of his 17 years to date as a girl bird.

In fact, it wasn’t until my mom bought us a membership in the National Cockatiel Society that we discovered he was a boy bird (you can read more about this in our biography book, Love & Feathers).

But back on topic….turtle gender can be notoriously difficult to sleuth out.

Most turtles won’t even start to show gender-specific signs until they reach a certain age or a certain length (for box turtles, that is usually around 5 to 7 years old or after they grow to at least 3.5 inches long).

In the meantime, looking at a box turtle’s coloration can sometimes offer some helpful clues.

For instance, male 3 toed box turtles usually have bright, colorful eyes and patterns on their head and/or neck skin, while female 3 toed box turtles tend to be more muted in both areas.

But the best way to tell a boy box turtle from a girl box turtle is to wait until they have reached the requisite age/length and look in two areas: shell underside (plastron) and tail.

A boy 3 toed box turtle will have a bit of concavity or indentation that curves inward towards the middle/back of the plastron. A girl 3 toed box turtle won’t have that – her plastron will be straight and smooth.

Bruce shows off the slightly concave indentation in the middle of his under-shell, or plastron….a clear sign of “boy box turtle.”

Also, a boy box turtle will have a longer tail with the cloaca (opening) farther down on the tail. A girl box turtle will have a shorter tail with the cloaca closer to her shell.

Bruce displays the longer tail with the cloaca (opening) farther away from the shell….another clear sign of “boy box turtle.”

And remember….


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Published by Shannon Cutts

Animal sensitive and intuitive with Animal Love Languages. Parrot, tortoise and box turtle mama. Dachshund auntie.

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