Photo by Tad Motoyama

The Los Angeles Zoo welcomed its first Congo peafowl chick, a pheasant native to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on Friday, Nov. 22, 2019. While most are familiar with the majestic Indian peafowl, commonly called a “peacock,” many might not know there are three species of peafowl: Indian, Congo, and Green. The yet-to-be-sexed chick was hatched to a breeding pair of peafowl – the Zoo’s first successful hatch since 1997 – and is also a product of an Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Program to help build a sustainable population for the dwindling species.

“This is a great example of one of the L.A. Zoo’s many successful conservation efforts,” said Mike Maxcy, curator of birds at the Los Angeles Zoo. “The number of Congo peafowl found in the wild is currently shrinking, and it is crucial now more than ever to have sustainable populations in North American zoos to help protect this bird from possible extinction.”

The current North American sustainable population consists of only 26 Congo peafowl across 10 AZA-accredited institutions, which includes this breeding pair and its newly hatched chick. Since not much is known about this shy, secretive bird, animal care staff are still adjusting to the breeding habits of this pair. In the wild, the Congo peafowl would breed in their native spring season, which happens to be winter in Los Angeles. To meet this challenge, L.A. Zoo animal care staff constantly monitor the outside temperature and make adjustments to keep the birds comfortable and happy. To respect the sensitivity of this bird, the chick will be bonding with its parents behind the scenes at the Zoo’s Avian Conservation Center, a facility that aids in captive breeding for rare and endangered birds in AZA SSP Programs.

The Congo peafowl is currently listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Their population is threatened by human activities such as mining, logging,  agriculture, and hunting. Because these birds reside in dense forests, an accurate population census is difficult. Population estimates are anywhere from 2,000 to 9,000 remaining in the wild, which are found only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Male (peacock) and female (peahen) Congo peafowl are both about the size of a domestic chicken, but are colored quite differently. Unlike the better-known “common peacock,” the Congo peacock’s tail is short and lacks ocelli (“eyespots”).

The Congo peafowl is one of 13 species located in the Zoo’s Avian Conservation Center including the critically endangered blue throated macaw and Bali myna. While guests cannot view the Congo peafowl on exhibit, there are several wild Indian peafowl that roam free around Zoo grounds that can be observed on a daily basis.

About the Los Angeles Zoo

Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the landmark Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, drawing more than 1.8 million visitors each year, is home to a diverse collection of 1,400 animals representing 270 different species, 58 of which are endangered. Its lush grounds on 133 acres feature a botanical collection comprising over 800 different plant species with approximately 7,000 individual plants. The Zoo is located in Griffith Park at the junction of the Ventura (134) and Golden State (5) freeways. Admission is $22 for adults and $17 for children ages 2 to 12. The Zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For information, call (323) 644-4200 or visit the L.A. Zoo website at lazoo.org.

About Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Programs

An AZA Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Program strives to manage and conserve a select and typically threatened or endangered, ex situ species population with the cooperation of AZA-accredited institutions. SSP Programs develop a Breeding and Transfer Plan that identifies population management goals and recommendations to ensure the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically varied population. There are currently nearly 500 SSP Programs, each managed by their corresponding Taxon Advisory Groups (TAGs), within AZA.