Buds N Bugs:Peafowl: Glorious pheasants

This peacock is among a party of pea fowl at the Sportsman’s Lodge in Eastpoint. Photo available for purchase

This peacock is among a party of pea fowl at the Sportsman’s Lodge in Eastpoint.

Lois Swoboda
Published: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at 03:18 PM.

Peafowl are large, colorful pheasants native to Africa and Asia. Although many people refer to peafowl of both sexes as peacocks, the term is applies only to the male birds. Females are peahens and chicks peachicks. A group of peafowl is known as a bevy or party.

Male peacocks are among the largest flying birds.

There are two Asiatic and one African species of peafowl. The species commonly kept as a pet is the Indian peafowl or blue peafowl, native to India ands Sri Lanka. The green peafowl is found in Java and Myanmar and the Congo peafowl in central Africa. Both are listed as endangered due to overhunting. It is believed there are fewer than 15,000 Congo peafowl remaining.

Like many ground-feeding birds, including chickens, males possess metatarsal spurs or "thorns" used primarily in fights over territory or mates.

Peafowl are prized for their iridescent feathers. Male Indian peacocks’ tail feathers, or coverts, spread out in a distinctive train that is more than 60 percent of the male bird’s total body length. Indian peacocks boast colorful "eye" markings of blue, gold, red, and other hues. The large train is used in mating rituals and courtship displays. It can be arched into a magnificent fan that reaches across the bird's back and touches the ground on either side.

Females are believed to choose their mates according to the size, color, and quality of these outrageous feather trains. The male achieves his full color at age 3. During mating season, males may fight or become aggressive towards their own reflections.

The beautiful colors displayed by the peacock are due to reflection and light refraction, rather than pigmentation.

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