One of the most widely recognized game birds in the world, the Indian peafowl – more commonly known as the peacock – is a brilliantly colored bird and the males have spectacular tail plumes during the breeding season. Popular in Indian mythology and folklore, these birds have a history as colorful as their plumage and are honored as the national bird of India.
Indian Peafowl, Peacock, Blue Peafowl, Common Peafowl
- Bill: Pale and short, relatively thick, curved culmen
- Size: 36-85 inches long with 59-inch wingspan, round body, tufted crest
- Colors: Green, blue, copper, chestnut, buff, white, brown, iridescent
- Markings: Dimorphic species. Males have an iridescent blue head, neck and breast, patches of bare white skin on the face and a thin crest topped with dark blue or black tufts. The wings are coppery or barred buff and black, and the tail is brown but seldom seen except outside the breeding season. Iridescent green scale-like feathers are bright on the upper back. The uppertail coverts – 100-150 feathers in all – grow to immense proportions to create the distinct train with large, blue-green “eyes” at the end of each feather. Females have overall brown plumage that shows dark barring on the wings. The underparts are pale but may show mottling. The neck has some blue-green iridescence, and the face has more white than on male birds. Juveniles resemble females but males may show copper or chestnut in the wings. Species is monotypic, though some distinct color variations – such as an all white leucistic plumage – are carefully bred for ornamental birds, but these are not considered subspecies.
Seeds, grain, insects, invertebrates, reptiles, fruit, berries (See: Omnivorous)
Habitat and Migration:
Though these beautiful birds have been widely imported around the world as ornamental species and many feral colonies have been established in different countries and on different continents, their native range is relatively small and covers India, Sri Lanka and the southern regions of Bhutan and Nepal. They are also rarely seen in eastern Pakistan. Indian peafowl can be found in deciduous woodlands and riparian corridors, though because the birds are not typically molested, they can also frequently be seen in agricultural areas and villages. Worldwide, feral populations can be found in isolated areas of cities and towns, and these are popular residents of aviaries, zoos and botanical gardens. These birds do not migrate.
The piercing “ooo-ahh” call of the peacock is loud and distinctive, and can be heard from great distances. When several males are together, the combined calls can be quite raucous. Quieter cackles are also often heard.
These birds are found in small to large flocks, though mature males are more likely to be solitary after the breeding season. They roost in trees and prefer to run from a threat than to take flight. Peacocks often indulge in dust baths. The male's brilliant courtship display includes raising his tail to fan out his uppertail coverts in a huge half circle, and with his wings slightly drooped he will quiver his tail to attract a female's attention as he struts to show off his feathers from different angles. In the wild, several males may gather in a small lek to tempt females.
Indian peafowl are polygamous and one male may have several female mates. Their nests are simple scrapes on the ground typically lined with sticks, twigs or other basic debris, and 1-3 broods of 3-8 eggs each are laid, with multiple broods more common in domesticated peacocks. The female incubates the eggs for 25-30 days, and the precocial young follow their female parent quickly and learn to feed by imitating her behavior. Young birds will stay with their female parent for several months or until the following breeding season.
Attracting Indian Peafowl:
These large game birds can become quite tame and will readily visit backyards where seed and grain are available in ground feeders. Outside their native range, these birds may form large feral colonies that can be considered a nuisance and may need to be discouraged from feeders or forcibly relocated by wildlife officials.
These birds are not considered endangered, though some hybridization with released feral or domestic birds may threaten the wild birds' genetic purity. They are protected both by legal measures in their native range as well as religious and cultural beliefs that revere the Indian peafowl, though illegal poaching for meat and feathers as well as poisoning from pesticides can be responsible for population declines in some areas.
- Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus)
- Palawan Peacock-Pheasant (Polyplectron napoleonis)
- Himalayan Monal (Lophophorus impejanus)
- Ring-Necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)