In theory, birds should control the sex ratio of the offspring they produce. In practice, we have very limited evidence to support this idea because of our difficulty in sexing nestling birds. In addition, extinction is facing an increasing number of birds. Our ability to help includes captive breeding which, again, is difficult if male and female adults cannot be recognized. Here we describe the discovery of a W-linked gene in the Great tit (Parus major). It is named CHD-W (chromodomain-helicase-DNA-binding protein W-linked), it is highly conserved and it is W-chromosome linked in a range of bird species. These birds also possess a second, non-W-linked CHD gene (CHD-NW). A single, simple polymerase chain reaction technique based on both genes can be used to identify the sex in a wide variety of birds.