Common Blue Peafowl
Scientific Name: Pavo cristata
Native to the Indian sub-continent, peafowl were domesticated in ancient times and introduced to many parts of the world. The peacock is the national bird of India.
The spectacular display of the male peafowl (peacock) is not the tail feathers, but the tail coverts. These feathers are often called the “train.” Tail coverts in most birds are inconspicuous feathers at the base of the tail.
STATUS: The blue peafowl is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), though it may now be extinct in some of its former range, like Bangladesh. Peafowl exist in large numbers as domesticated birds and have been introduced to many parts of the world.
HABITAT: These birds originated in the open forests and riverside undergrowth of India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. Peafowl are extremely adaptable birds and now make their homes in a wide variety of habitats, including some suburban areas. Their only real requirement seems to be the presence of trees or buildings for roosting at night.
DIET: Peafowl are omnivorous; they eat grains, small vertebrates, insects, and fruit including berries and figs.
Physical Characteristics: Peafowl (males are called peacocks, females are peahens, but the term peacock is sometimes used for both sexes) are the largest birds in the pheasant family (Phasianidae). The head and body length of the males is about 51 inches; females are slightly smaller. They can weigh up to 13 pounds. The male train is about 55-63 inches and is shed after the breeding season to increase the male’s chances of surviving to the next breeding season. The peacocks can fly with the train but only for short distances to reach a roosting spot. The blue color of the peacocks is a structural color. Microscopic structures in the feathers reflect blue light and absorb other colors so the feathers appear to be blue. Each feather in the train includes a row of eyespots (ocelli). The female’s colors are more subdued, with shades of brown above a white belly. Both sexes have crests, with the males being bigger and brighter.
In the wild, peafowl are crepuscular, feeding primarily in the mornings and evenings and roosting in the shade during the hotter part of the day. Peacocks are polygamous, mating with as many females as possible. Males gather at a breeding site called a lek, displaying in competition with each other, while the females “window shop,” looking for the best mates. During courtship, the male raises and spreads his train using the actual tail feathers for support. The back side of the train is comparatively drab, and he approaches the female backwards. When he gets close, he spins, hoping to dazzle the female with his brilliant colors. If mating does occur, the female will lay three to six eggs in a nest on the ground under some brush, necessitating her more drab camouflage colors. The eggs hatch in 28-30 days. The chicks are precocial (able to follow the hen soon after hatching). She will lead them to feeding areas, but the chicks feed themselves. Males develop a train during their second year, but they do not develop ocelli until the third. Feral peafowl have become naturalized in Southern California, and breeding flocks occur in many of our local communities.