Be Your Own Birder

Weekly Bird: Indian Peafowl

The peacock is well-known and instantly recognizable worldwide, but many people don’t much consider this bird’s amazing attributes beyond its iconic tail. There is much more to these birds, however, than just some fancy feathers!

Indian Peafowl - Male

Indian Peafowl – Male – Photo by Daniel Ramirez

Indian Peafowl Fun Facts
  • The Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus) is a member of the Phasianidae bird family and is closely related to other magnificently-tailed species, including wild turkeys, golden pheasants, and red junglefowl, as well as many other pheasants, quail, and grouse.
  • While widely known as just the peacock or peafowl, other names for this bird are the blue peacock, blue peafowl, and common peafowl. Females are more correctly called peahens, males are peacocks, and both genders are peafowl.
  • Flocks of peafowl are called ostentations, prides, and parties, all of which denote the bright coloration and flashy displays of these birds.
  • Though found worldwide in aviaries, zoos, and both public and private collections, the Indian peafowl is only found native and wild on the Indian subcontinent, with its range extending into eastern Pakistan, southern Nepal and western Bangladesh.
  • The peacock’s elaborate tail isn’t its tail at all, it’s the bird’s uppertail coverts – more than 200 feathers that cover the base of the tail and grow into the elegant train. The actual tail is only 20 feathers, and is dark brown. The tail is used to lift the train into display.
  • Males lose their elaborate trains in late summer after the breeding season ends, but the uppertail coverts immediately begin to regrow to form next year’s ornamentation.
  • The white peafowl is a genetically leucistic form of peacock, and is often selectively bred to retain its stunning plumage. These are not albino birds, however, and leucistic Indian peafowl are not typically found in the wild.
  • Male peacocks begin growing their elaborate trains when they are two years old, but don’t have fully developed train feathers with clear eyespots until they are 4-6 years old. In younger birds, the feathers will not grow as long and the display is not as impressive.
  • The Indian peafowl is the national bird of India, and was designated with this honor in 1963. The birds are protected by a number of laws in India, including prevention of feather collection unless the feathers are naturally shed.
  • On average, an Indian peafowl lives 15-20 years, with lifespans reaching 25 years in captivity where the birds are protected and given the best of care.
  • Though peacocks may be brilliantly beautiful, their voices are less than melodious and the most well-known call is a harsh, loud screech. These birds actually have more than a dozen different calls in their repertoire, however, including clucks
  • Extracts from peacock feathers (either after soaking feathers in water or burning the feathers into ash) are a traditional treatment for the venom of numerous vipers, cobras, and other venomous snakes in India. These birds also kill many deadly snakes.
Adding the Indian Peafowl to Your Life List

How you add the Indian peafowl to your life list depends on how you personally count that list. If you want to see wild, native, naturally-occuring birds, you will need to travel to India or elsewhere in their range, and they are relatively common, even around human habitation. Because these birds are omnivorous and adaptable, they can be found in many different habitats, though they tend to avoid the densest forests and jungles, as well as barren desserts or very wet habitats that would weigh down their magnificent feathers. Feral colonies are widespread throughout the world as well, and escapee peacocks could be seen just about anywhere, including in urban and suburban parks as well as agricultural areas. These birds are also often free-roaming in zoos, aviaries, botanical gardens, and luxury estates.

Learn More About the Indian Peafowl

There is always more to learn about peacocks, starting with these top resources…

Indian Peafowl Male Profile in Display

Indian Peafowl Male Profile in Display – Photo by Mike Boswell

2 thoughts on “Weekly Bird: Indian Peafowl

  1. Shyla

    On a boat trip along the mighty Chambal River we caught up with bar-headed geese, great thick-knees – a relative of our own stone-curlew – and black-bellied terns. But for many of us, the highlight was catching sight of the critically endangered Indian gharial, a slender, long-snouted crocodilian seen basking on the mudflats.

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