The stunning peacock and National bird of India.
Lets start with getting the grammar right…
The male is the ‘peacock’, the female is a ‘peahen’, a group of these birds are referred to as either an ‘ostentation’, a ‘muster’ or a ‘party’. A group of females are called a ‘bevy’ and the babies are ‘pea-chicks’.
I had the good fortune to have a large piece of land and decided to buy some peafowl, one male and two females. I kept them in an aviary for a few days for them to get used to the place and realize that this was where the free food was…
After letting them out to range freely I noticed the male had disappeared. After about three days he returned, with two more females. To this day I don’t know where they came from or who owned them. Then he disappeared again and brought another female home. with breeding that summer, I soon had 14 birds. They really loved the tall trees on my property and I only seemed to gain birds.
A very good Turkish friend of mine explained to me what was happening – The male was creating a harem!
Another interesting fact that I learned was that one should not underestimate these birds ability to fly. I had the opportunity to see this skill in practice when watching a transfer of a new bird from a transport cage into an aviary when the peacock broke free and took to the air. It went high and far, very far – straight for some large trees close to the horizon and it didn’t stop on the way!
The birds I had to deal with were all of the Asian variety but there is also an African variety from the jungles of the Congo. First discovered in 1936 after an extensive search initiated after a feather was found.
For this exercise we will focus on the more popular Asian varieties, being blue (from India and Sri Lanka) and green varieties (found from Myanmar (Burma) to Java). The male’s tail is referred to as a train and is regrown each year. As a defense against predators peafowl normally alight into the nearest tree. They are also very noisy birds, especially in mating season.
They nest on the ground, normally under a bush or thicket and lay up to 6 eggs but can be more. They hatch after about 28 to 30 days and the young are pretty independent in terms of feeding,being ground feeders.
They will scratch around eating what they find, which will typically be plants, insects and anything else that opportunity presents such as amphibians or even scorpions.
I was always amazed at how the youngsters managed to get up into trees to roost with the parents at night, often encouraged by the mother with a clicking sound. Sometimes they didn’t quite make it to the top branch and one would find them arrayed on various branches below the mother.
It will take the pea-chick males another 3 years before they have a train like their father and they can expect to live for around 25 years. The albino variety of these birds are pure white and there are also some with a mix depending on their genetics.
The male is truly magnificent when attracting the female with his train erect and the ‘eyes’ of the feathers catching the sunlight especially when he shakes or rattles the tail giving a shimmering effect. This train is up to 60% of the bird but he loses all the tail feathers for winter and regrows them in the breeding season.
Around 2000 years ago the Romans raised peafowl both for the table and ornamental use but the Mesopotamian cultures had them 2000 years before that and the prior to that the Chinese kept them after importing them from India!