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Indian Peafowl

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Indian Peafowl
Male (Peacock)
Female (Peahen)
Conservation status

Least Concern ( IUCN 3.1)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Phasianidae
Genus: Pavo
Species: P. cristatus
Binomial name
Pavo cristatus
Linnaeus, 1758

The Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus, also known as the Common Peafowl or the Blue Peafowl, is one of the species of bird in the genus Pavo of the Phasianidae family known as peafowl. The Indian Peafowl is a resident breeder in the Indian subcontinent and has been introduced into many parts of the world and feral populations exist in many introduced regions. The peacock is the national bird of India.

Indian Peahen with Immatures at Hodal in Faridabad District of Haryana, India.
Peacock "tail feathers" are really upper tail coverts.

The species is found in dry semi-desert grasslands, scrub and deciduous forests. It forages and nests on the ground but roosts on top of trees. It eats seeds, insects, fruits, small mammals and reptiles.

Females are about 86 cm (34 in) long and weigh about 3.4 kg (7.4 lbs), while males average at about 2.12 m (7.3 ft) in full breeding plumage (107 cm/42 in when not) and weigh about 5 kg (11 lbs). The male is called a peacock, the female a peahen. The Indian Peacock has iridescent blue-green plumage. The upper tail coverts on its back are elongated and ornate with an eye at the end of each feather. These are the Peacock's display feathers. The female plumage is a mixture of dull green, grey and iridescent blue, with the greenish-grey predominating. In the breeding season, females stand apart by lacking the long 'tail feathers' also known as train, and in the non-breeding season they can be distinguished from males by the green colour of the neck as opposed to the blue on the males.

Peafowl are most notable for the male's extravagant display feathers which, despite actually growing from their back, are known as a 'tail' or train. This train is in reality not the tail but the enormously elongated upper tail coverts. The tail itself is brown and short as in the peahen. The colours result from the micro-structure of the feathers and the resulting optical phenomena. The ornate train is believed to be the result of female sexual selection as males raised the feathers into a fan and quiver it as part of courtship display. Many studies have suggested that the quality of train is a honest signal of the condition of males and that peahens select males on the basis of their plumage. More recent studies however, suggest that other cues may be involved in mate selection by peahens.

They lay a clutch of 4-8 eggs which take 28 days to hatch. The eggs are light brown and are laid every other day usually in the afternoon. The male does not assist with the rearing, and is polygamous with up to six hens.

Hybridization and concerns

The Indian Peafowl can hybridise with the closely related Green Peafowl, Pavo muticus, in captivity and creates offspring called "Spauldings" or "Spaldings". The original "Spalding" was a hybrid between a female of the Black-Shouldered mutation of the Indian Peafowl, with a male of the nominate Java subspecies of the Green Peafowl, though some believe it was really a cross between a Black-Shouldered male with a Green Peafowl hen of the subspecies imperator.

Even though there is no natural range overlap, hybridization occurs in the wild when feral populations of one of the species overlaps another species. Hybridization has created some concern as the Green Peafowl is endangered.

Indian Peafowl and humans

In the Middle Ages, the flesh of the Indian Peafowl was highly prestigious and believed to be imperishable. Thanks to its reputation of being immortal it was also a symbol of the Catholic church. Though its meat is tough and not well-suited for consumption, it was prized due to being a luxury and often domesticated for human consumption by the medieval nobility and was often served at banquets as a subtlety. This was usually done by skinning the bird, cooking, grinding up and seasoning the flesh, and then redressing it in its own plumage and serving it in a lifelike pose by bracing it with wooden struts. It was also common to discard the meat and stuff the colorful plumage with the meat of tastier domestic fowl such as goose or chicken to please and entertain diners.

Indian Peafowl as pets

Indian Peafowl can be companion animals but there may be problems with dogs, cats and other pets. They may roam, roost or mess on adjoining property. Peafowl have been called "urban guard dogs" because their distinctive cries can act as a warning of approaching people. Several British stately homes keep peafowl in the grounds.

Peafowl used as logos

  • The American television network NBC has used three variations of a rainbow peacock logo since 1956.
  • The national carrier of Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan Airlines uses a Peacock as its company logo.
  • The Santa Fe Community College Teaching Zoo uses a peafowl on its logo. It was chosen due to the free roaming peafowl that live on zoo grounds.
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